COVID-19 Epidemiological Bulletin

COVID-19 Epidemiological Bulletin

This weekly report outlines the recent epidemiology of COVID-19 disease in Northern Ireland (NI), along with information about the genomic lineages (variants) of cases, the number of COVID-19 outbreaks in care homes and excess deaths. It links to other sources of information about SARS-CoV-2 genomics and COVID-19 vaccinations.

From week 45, 2023, a new Laboratory Information System (LIMS) is being implemented across Northern Ireland and validation is ongoing. Therefore, results should be interpreted with caution.

1 Summary

  • In the week ending February 25 2024 (Week 08), the number of new infection episodes detected through clinical and routine testing was 151, a decrease when compared to 178 in the previous week.

  • There has been an increase in the number of confirmed COVID-19 outbreaks in care homes in the current week compared to the previous week.

  • There has been a decrease in the number of community acquired emergency COVID-19 hospital admissions in the current week compared to the previous week.

  • There has been a general decreasing trend in the number of community acquired emergency COVID-19 inpatients since late December.

  • In the week ending February 16 2024, there were 9 COVID-19 registered deaths; a decrease when compared to the previous week.

2 Incidence and prevalence of COVID-19

2.1 Episodes of COVID-19

Infection episodes detected through clinical testing reveal only a small fraction of the true number of cases, because only a minority of people who have COVID-19 disease are tested. We continue to monitor these because an increase may indicate increasing incidence or severity.

The number of new episodes is shown by week overall (Figure 2.1), as a rate per 100,000 population by age band over time (Figure 2.2), as a rate per 100,000 population by local government district (LGD) for the most recent week in a bar plot (Figure 2.3) and over a six week period (Figure 2.4). Supplementary tables of key figures are shown at the end of this document. There has been a decrease in the number of new episodes in the current week, with 151 episodes identified in week 08 compared to 178 in the previous week. The 20-29,40-49 and 80+ year-old age groups saw an increase in episode rates when compared to the previous week. The 10-19 year-old age group saw no change while remaining age groups saw a decrease. The highest episode rates per 100,000 population remain in the 80+ year-olds (52.2 per 100,000 population). Antrim and Newtonabbey, Ards and North Down and Derry City and Strabane saw an increase in episode rate, Fermanagh and Omagh saw no change, while the other LGDs saw a decrease in episode rates.

Testing policy changes over time in NI will have an impact on the proportion of COVID-19 cases detected and may affect case rates and other indicators presented in this report. Since 2022, testing of most of the general population with COVID-19 symptoms has no longer been advised. This reduced volume of testing is consistent with the rest of the UK.

Weekly number of unique episodes of COVID-19, by epidemiological week

Figure 2.1: Weekly number of unique episodes of COVID-19, by epidemiological week