Northern Ireland news

Dr Michael McBride: No evidence to suggest Covid-19 leakage across Irish border

The PSNI conducted patrols and check points with gardai, including this one on the Derry/Donegal border, over Easter. Picture from PSNI, Twitter 

Northern Ireland’s chief medical officer has said there is no evidence to suggest there has been a “leakage” of the Covid-19 infection across the Irish border.

Dr Michael McBride was responding having been asked about the comparatively high prevalence of the disease recorded in a number of border counties in the Irish Republic.

“I don’t think that relates to spill over across the border one way or the other,” he told Stormont’s Covid-19 briefing.

Dr McBride said the public across the island had been adhering to social distancing rules and the spread of the epidemic had been “broadly similar” in both jurisdictions.

“So I don’t believe that there is leakage of infection across the border for those reasons, there’s absolutely no evidence to suggest that,” he said.

The latest figures show there have been 626 cases of Covid-19 in Co Cavan and 373 in Co Monaghan.

Co Cavan has the highest incidence rate of Covid-19 in the Republic per 100,000 of the population, followed by Dublin and Monaghan.

Dr Gabriel Scally said that the high number of cases of Covid-19 in some border counties in the Republic may be due to a super spreader.

Yesterday night, the Republic's chief medical officer Tony Holohan said he did not think that relatively high incidences of the virus in several Irish border counties was linked to people with the infection travelling in from Northern Ireland.

President of the Epidemiology and Public Health section of the Royal Society of Medicine Dr Gabriel Scally told RTE radio there could be a "super spreader" in the border region but this could not be confirmed until investigations and comprehensive contact tracing are carried out.

"What we have seen from the outbreaks elsewhere and in other countries is that you can get super spreaders. These are people who may not have all of the symptoms and may not be terribly ill but spread the virus with a very heavy virus load."

"If you get one or two of these people, they can affect a lot of people in a local area so maybe there is a super spreader around - that could be one of the reasons.

"Whatever the reasons, I think it deserves a bit of attention and a bit of investigation and it certainly deserves discussion in a North South forum because I and other people have been saying there is no way out of this without an all island approach. That is what we have got to aim for."

A memorandum of understanding between the departments of health in the Republic and Northern Ireland was signed on April 7 but some differences remain.

Citizens in Republic are required to restrict their movements to within 2km of home but this does not apply to citizens living in Northern Ireland who cross the border.

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