COVID resurgence adding to ‘extreme pressures’ in NI with around 1 in 16 infected

The COVID-19 pandemic continues to cast a "long shadow” over the health service and wider society in Northern Ireland, the Department of Health has said.

The warning comes as new data based on sample testing estimated that the percentage of people with COVID in the week before Christmas from December 16 – 22 was 6.43% of the population, around 118,100 people, or 1 in every 16.

This has almost trebled since the start of December, although the figures have been released with a note of caution given the relatively small number of sample tests compared to when testing was common, widespread and easily accessed.

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The Department of Health said that both COVID-19 and flu are among the factors contributing to the extreme and ongoing pressures on health and social care.

A positive COVID lateral flow test.

A DoH spokesperson said: “The latest COVID-19 Infection Survey results, published today, indicate a significant increase in COVID-19 infections in the community in December.

“Management information from hospitals indicates a large increase in the number of inpatients with confirmed COVID-19.

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“As of January 5, 2023, there were 374 in-patients with confirmed COVID-19 in hospitals here. That compares to 226 on December 5, 2022. The 374 total represents 11% of occupied beds in Northern Ireland hospitals.

“For a significant number of these patients, COVID-19 will not be the principal reason for their ill-health and hospitalisation. However, infection with the virus can impact on patient condition and recovery, as well as the management of their care.”

Doctor making swab nasal test to young woman in medical clinic for possible coronavirus infection (File picture) DisobeyArt - stock.adobe.com

The Department urged anyone who is eligible for COVID-19 and flu vaccination and has not yet got their jabs to get them now.

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“The potential for hospital acquired infection is heightened when COVID-19 rates increase in the community. This is another reason why timely discharge from hospital is important for patients who are medically fit to leave.

“It is also vital to keep following public health advice on preventing the spread of all respiratory infections.

“Anyone with symptoms of a respiratory infection and a high temperature should stay at home and should avoid contact with other people and must not visit others in health and social care settings.”

COVID test kit.
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Currently, the Covid variants under surveillance in the UK are: omicron, including sub-lineages BA.2, BA.4 and BA.5, and their sub-lineages.