PHA refuses to deny reports of TWO Coronavirus clusters in NI - 66 people test positive for COVID-19 in seven days

There are unconfirmed reports that COVID-19 clusters have been discovered in both Lisburn and Downpatrick.

In the last 14 days three people in the Lisburn and Castlereagh Borough Council tested positive for COVID-19 and in Newry, Mourne and Down council area a further 10 people returned positive results.

In its daily report published on Thursday, the Department of Health (DoH) revealed 66 people tested positive in the last seven days.

The DoH has confirmed the identification of 16 clusters across Northern Ireland but refuses to say where all these clusters are.

There are currently 16 clusters of COVID-19 cases across Northern Ireland.

Two of the 16 clusters have been confirmed as being in Limavady and Ballymena.

The Public Health Agency for Northern Ireland confirmed today that after deploying mobile testing units in Limavady and Ballymena there were also testing units in both Lisburn and Downpatrick.

The News Letter contacted the PHA on Thursday and asked it to confirm or deny reports of COVID-19 clusters in both Lisburn and Downpatrick.

"The PHA is aware of ongoing speculation around current clusters of COVID-19 across Northern Ireland," a spokesperson said.

"As we said in our statement yesterday (22/07/2020) 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.

As we move through the coronavirus pandemic, clusters of cases are expected. This is why the Test, Trace and Protect programme is in place to help ensure that people are tested when symptoms emerge, and their contacts traced quickly if they receive a positive result, to help prevent further spread.

"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."

The spokesperson added: "A key setting may be a workplace, educational establishment or similar type setting.

"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.

Since May 24, 2020:

- 16 Clusters have been identified in total.

- 133 Cases associated with these clusters.

- Six Clusters with more than five cases associated.

Clusters with increasing numbers, increasing complexity between cases, or sensitive issues are brought to the attention of the Health Protection Team. A rapid risk assessment of each cluster is then performed.

Clusters may be observed, or merit formation of an Incident Management Team (IMT) or Outbreak Control Team (OCT)

"To date the majority of clusters that have occurred have been managed effectively 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," said the spokesperson.

"This virus has the potential to make its presence felt in any community.

"Everyone should act on the basis that it might potentially be in their neighbourhood right now.

"That’s why following the public health advice remains vitally important.

"Maintain social distancing, wash your hands regularly, and catch it, bin it, kill it.

"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.

"If anyone is concerned that they are experiencing any of the symptoms of coronavirus, they must self-isolate and arrange a test as soon as possible. For further information on the virus, its symptoms and how to book a test, visit www.pha.site/coronavirus"We must be aware that COVID-19 is still a threat and we need everyone to play their part in helping to stop the virus spreading.

"If you receive a positive test result you will be contacted by the PHA’s Contact Tracing Service from (028) 9536 8888."