Coronavirus R rate could be above 1 in Northern Ireland, government says

6 August 2020, 16:06

Social distancing at shops in Belfast
Social distancing at shops in Belfast. Picture: Getty

By Maddie Goodfellow

The coronavirus R rate could be as high as 1 in Northern Ireland, the devolved government has said.

The health department said it rose from between 0.5 to 1 last week to between 0.8 and 1.8 this week.

The R rate represents the number of people that someone infected with Covid-19 passes the disease to.

Scientists have said that the figure is likely to shift with "volatility" and be "influenced by small local clusters" as the case numbers drop.

"Community transmission remains low in Northern Ireland," the devolved government said on Thursday.

"Although it is important to note that the number of positive tests per day has increased threefold from early July."

More than 20 local coronavirus clusters have been identified in Northern Ireland.

168 cases of Covid-19 have been linked with these clusters, with nine of the clusters having had five or more cases associated with them.

Arlene Foster has announced that pubs will stay closed
Arlene Foster has announced that pubs will stay closed. Picture: PA

It was also announced on Thursday that face coverings will be mandatory in shops and other enclosed spaces from this Monday.

The reopening of pubs and bars which do not sell food has also been delayed.

First Minister Arlene Foster said: "Because of the concern around the level of community transmission and the desire to frankly prioritise the reopening of our schools... we have decided that it is prudent to pause the reopening of our public houses."

Health minister Robin Swann said the latest figure "underlines the fact that the threat from the virus remains very real".

"If anyone still thinks COVID-19 is going to fade away, let them think again."