High COVID-19 infection rates in Northern Ireland increased cases in bordering Irish counties

Posted on: 21 July 2021

High COVID-19 infection rates in Northern Ireland during the first year of the pandemic increased cases in neighbouring counties in Ireland. That is according to new research that also pinpointed socioeconomic disadvantage as conferring a significant additional risk of spread.

Researchers from Trinity College Dublin analysed official statistics on confirmed COVID-19 cases on the island of Ireland for 52 weeks from March 2020 before forming their conclusions. Their work has just been published on HRB Open Research.

Among the notable findings were:

  • Border counties had an extra 21 confirmed COVID-19 cases per 1000 people
  • This equates to an estimated 9,611 additional cases in ROI, or 4% of the national total in the first year of the pandemic
  • Population density in ROI counties was positively associated with confirmed cases
  • Higher proportions of residents in the professional classes were negatively associated

Lead author, Peter May, Research Assistant Professor in Health Economics, Centre for Health Policy & Management, and The Irish Longitudinal study on Ageing (TILDA), said:

Ireland offers an unusual opportunity to quantify how COVID-19 infection rates in one country impacted cases in a neighbouring country. The data show quite clearly that high rates in Northern Ireland led to more infections south of the border.

 “These findings underline the need to maximise co-ordination of pandemic responses among neighbouring countries if we are to minimise disease spread and its associated disruptions to society and the economy. For Ireland, that means a coherent all-island response to infectious disease outbreaks. The implications are important for all countries that share borders with others.

In analysing the data, the researchers controlled for sociodemographic, epidemiological and geographic differences between counties.

Co-author Rakesh Ahmed said: “We also found that infection rates were higher in counties with fewer people in white-collar professions. This adds to growing evidence internationally that disadvantaged people have carried more of the risk through the pandemic.” 

The paper: Does high COVID-19 spread impact neighbouring countries? Quasi-experimental evidence from the first year of the pandemic in Ireland  can be found HERE.


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