43 new cases of the virus, as Public Health Agency reveal 11 active clusters in Northern Ireland

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By Peter Moor

New data from the Department of Health reveals 43 new cases of COVID-19 have been diagnosed here since yesterday.

It brings the total number of cases to 4,939.

Yesterday, for the first time, the number of diagnosed cases of the virus rose above 6,000.

This latest data comes alongside news from the Public Health Agency (PHA) that 23 clusters of COVID-19 have been identified in the region since 25th May.

Currently 11 clusters remain open.

In total, 168 cases of COVID-19 have been associated with these clusters with 9 of the clusters having 5 or more cases associated with them.

A cluster is currently defined as two or more laboratory-confirmed cases of COVID-19 among individuals associated with a key setting, with illness onset dates within a 14 day period.

Most of theses recently identified clusters have been found in workplaces, retail or hospitality premises, domestic gatherings, and sporting settings. 

The PHA says "COVID-19 transmission risk is highest in a household setting, and it is to be anticipated that a significant number of linked cases within households will be identified by efficient contact tracing. It is for this reason that household linked cases are not reported as clusters."

The data also reveals since July, the average number of close contacts linked to cases has more than doubled.

The PHA has said the rise may be attributed to the gradual easing of lockdown measures, but may also be explained by relaxing of attitudes to social distancing.

Speaking about today's data,  Dr Gerry Waldron, Head of Health Protection at the PHA, said: “Our analysis of clusters to date has shown that they have been associated with both workplace and community settings, such as domestic gatherings and in hospitality and sporting settings.

“Clusters are managed through the contact tracing programme, and where we need to advise or inform the public of any increased risk to public health we will do so in a timely manner.

“In the past seven days, five clusters have been identified. 35 cases have been associated with these clusters, with 239 close contacts.

“This should act as a timely reminder that we must not become complacent – coronavirus remains in circulation and we have seen an increase in cases in recent weeks. It is therefore essential that we remember the key advice to help keep ourselves and those around us safe.

“Maintain social distancing, wash your hands regularly, and get tested if you display any symptoms of coronavirus.

“This disease has the potential to make its presence felt in any community, as we have seen with clusters appearing across council districts.

“Everyone should act on the basis that it might potentially be in your neighbourhood right now, rather than waiting for it to emerge in your local area or for rumours to circulate before taking steps to help protect yourself and others. That’s why following the public health advice remains vitally important. You can spread the virus even if you don't have symptoms, so taking these steps and exercising good hygiene practices will help prevent cases and reduce the number of clusters.”

Dr Waldron added: “Speculation around current clusters of COVID-19 across Northern Ireland is not helpful.

“We will not be commenting on individual cases of COVID-19 or going into the detail of every incident that emerges, as this could lead to people being identified, create stigma, and focus attention on individuals, families or groups, and therefore deter others with symptoms coming forward to be tested.”

Data released today by the Department of Health also revealed no new deaths related to the virus for the 24th day running.

The number of fatalities linked to the virus therefore remains at 556.

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