NI data proves social distancing is making a difference in fighting Covid-19

  • New modelling data from the Department of Health shows that social distancing in Northern Ireland has brought the Covid-19 infection rate down dramatically.

    While England seems to be aiming to relax its lockdown rules, the current official advice in Northern Ireland is the same as when the lockdown began: Everyone should stay in their homes except for the four exceptions of exercise, essential food shopping, caring for vulnerable people, or going to work (for specific key workers).

    When outside, we're to remain a minimum of two metres from the nearest person to help prevent the virus spreading between households. This is necessary because the virus spreads primarily through exhaled droplets in coughing, sneezing, and even breathing, and because there's research showing that people can have and transmit the virus even without getting symptoms themselves.

    New data from the Department of Health has been published showing the impact of these social distancing measures on the virus, and it looks like it really has made an enormous difference. The data comes from the Department of Health's specialist modelling group, which is chaired by Northern Ireland’s Chief Scientific Advisor, Professor Ian Young and involves external experts from government, the healthcare sector, and academia.

    The infection rate of a virus is measured by its R number, which represents the number of individuals each infected person will go on to infect themselves. An R value above 1 will lead to the number of infected cases growing over time, while a value of below 1 means that the spread of the virus will slow down and the number of new infected cases each day will drop.

    The department's new statistics have shown the remarkable impact that social distancing in our streeets and shops has had on Covid-19's R value, dropping from 2.8 before the introduction of the social distancing rules to just 0.8 today. Relaxing any lockdown restrictions will increase the R value, and it's important to keep it below 1 to to avoid the risk of a second wave of infections.

    The Department's report explains: "We are now seeing a slow decline in the number of community acquired Covid-19 cases, hospital admissions, ICU occupancy and deaths. In order to ensure that the number of Covid-19 cases remains at the current level or less in the future, we need to ensure that R0 remains at or below 1. If R increases above one there will be an increase in Covid-19 cases and a risk of a second or subsequent waves of the epidemic."

    Source: Written based on press release

    About the author

    Brendan is a Sync NI writer with a special interest in the gaming sector, programming, emerging technology, and physics. To connect with Brendan, feel free to send him an email or follow him on Twitter.

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