The Department of Health today published the next in the series of weekly results from its COVID-19 Infection Survey (CIS).
The findings set out in this report relate to modelled positivity estimates for Northern Ireland for the week up to the 20 March 2021. The aims of the CIS are to estimate how many people have the infection and the number of new cases that occur over a given time as well as estimating how many people have developed antibodies to COVID-19.
The survey over time will help track the extent of infection and transmission of COVID-19 among people in the community population (those in private residences).
Due to the relatively small number of tests and positive swab results within our sample, credible intervals are wide and therefore results should be interpreted with caution.
- During the most recent week of the study (14 March – 20 March), it is estimated that 5,800 people in Northern Ireland had COVID-19 (95% credible interval: 3,100 to 9,500).
- This equates to 0.32% of the population (95% credible interval: 0.17% to 0.52%) or around 1 in 320 people (95% credible interval 1 in 590 to 1 in 190).
- This is based on statistical modelling of the trend in rates of positive nose and throat swab results. Modelling suggests that in the most recent week, the percentage of people testing positive in Northern Ireland appears to have remained level, although there is high uncertainty.
- In the latest six-week period, there were 20,777 swab tests taken in total from 11,209 participants. Of these, 68 participants tested positive from 59 different households.
- In the latest two-week period, of the 5,581 participants in the study, 17 tested positive from 14 households.
- Positivity rates appear to have decreased across all ages since the beginning of February.
New variant analysis
A new variant of the coronavirus (COVID-19) was identified in the UK in mid-November 2020. The new UK variant of COVID-19 has changes in one of the three genes which coronavirus swab tests detect, known as the S-gene. This means in cases compatible with the new variant, the S-gene is no longer detected by the current test. While there are other reasons why a positive swab test may not detect the S-gene, absence of the S-gene has become a reliable indicator of the new UK variant in COVID-19.
In contrast the South African and Brazilian variants have an S-gene that is detectable with the current test and will therefore be included in the “not compatible with new variant” group of COVID-19 where the virus level is high enough to identify this. Which of these types of COVID-19 are compatible with the South African and Brazilian variants cannot be identified from the swab PCR test alone. You can read more about the new UK variant in a recent Office for National Statistics blog.
In the most recent week of the study, the trend in the percentage testing positive compatible with the UK variant in Northern Ireland is uncertain.
It should be noted that there is considerable uncertainty around these estimates due to the small numbers of new variant compatible positives detected in Northern Ireland and also given that not all cases that are positive on the ORF1ab and N-genes will be the new variant.
Notes to editors:
- The Department of Health has been working along with the Public Health Agency, Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency and the Office for National Statistics (and its various survey partners) to extend the COVID-19 Infection Survey to Northern Ireland. Fieldwork in Northern Ireland began on 27 July 2020.
- All results are provisional and subject to revision. Due to relatively small number of tests and positive swab tests within the sample, credible intervals are wide and therefore results should be interpreted with caution.
- These statistics refer to infections reported in the community (i.e. private households). These figures exclude infections reported in hospitals, care homes and/or other institutional settings.
- Estimates of the total national proportion of the population testing positive for COVID-19 are adjusted to be representative of the population of Northern Ireland that live in private residential households in terms of age, sex and region.
- Weekly reports are to be published with findings from the COVID-19 Infection survey. It is anticipated that new and further analyses will be added to the weekly reports over time.
- Further information about quality and methodology associated with the survey can be found on the ONS website. www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/healthandsocialcare/conditionsanddiseases/methodologies/covid19infectionsurveypilotmethodsandfurtherinformation#covid-19-infection-survey
- This publication is available online
- Additional information is available from:
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Department of Health
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