Number-crunching the past few days’ COVID-19 statistics is bringing clearer evidence by the day that RoI seems to have definitively turned a corner in its struggle against this frightening adversary. If we define ‘peak covid’ as the date when a jurisdiction had its largest 7-day rolling average of new cases, we find that peak covid occurred on April 15th for the UK, April 18th for the RoI, and April 20th for NI. The graph shows the 7-day rolling averages since March 25th. The figures were weighted so that the peak covid for each jurisdiction was set to 100, which allows easier comparison.
Average daily incidence in the RoI is now 18% of its peak covid value. By contrast – even though its peak covid day was three days earlier – the UK is at 87% of its peak covid figure. NI is in between, at 55%.
These three differing stories may well bring significant strain on Northern politics. If daily incidence in the South continues to drop at the same rate, it is likely that it will be ready for a significant unwinding of its lockdown before the North. This scenario creates a dilemma for Dublin, but also for Sinn Féin: do they agree to keep the border open and risk a possible upsurge in COVID-19 cases in RoI? How will that play out among SF’s new voters, many of whom have minimal interest in the North? Or will nationalist ideology win out over jurisdictional public health prudence?
The DUP and UUP could also be in a very tight spot. If Northern Ireland’s COVID-19 incidence continues to drop at a much faster rate compared to the overall UK rate, it will be ready to unwind earlier than the mainland. In that scenario, for Northern Ireland to protect the gains it will have made, it will have to impose travel restrictions at airports and North Channel ports. Could unionist ministers agree to quarantining visitors from the mainland to avoid a possible upsurge in COVID-19 cases in NI? If they don’t, how will that play out amongst unionists? Will there be another tranche of unionist voters marching over to Alliance? Will unionist ideology win out over jurisdictional public health prudence?
The second graph shows that the UK and US are both spending a significantly longer time near their peak, compared to China, South Korea, Italy and both parts of Ireland. Just a thought, but might it be possible that Brexitian and Trumpian populist distrust of experts has bred a hubristic myopia that left such governments incapable of decisive early intervention based on expert advice?
In the South, 17 counties have seen a reduction in COVID-19 incidence, with nine going the opposite way. Longford has had a particularly bad surge. Carlow and Offaly are also worrying. Thankfully, Cavan, Monaghan and Louth have quietened. Limerick and Tipperary did have very recent high incidence but are dropping now.
It is great to see the NI LGD council figures being published again, and on a daily basis. This will allow the 7-day rolling average to be calculated from May 7th. Some Ireland-wide maps have been added to my COVIDWATCH website. The Bray-Athlone-Larne triangle still accounts for the vast majority (72%) of COVID-19 cases.
Philip McGuinness teaches at Dundalk Institute of Technology, plays music with the Oriel Traditional Orchestra, and loves to walk around and over the wee perfect hills of the Ring Of Gullion.