DUBLIN — Northern Ireland confirmed an unprecedented 1,080 new cases of the novel coronavirus on Friday, breaking not only the region’s previous highest daily tally, but also that of the bigger Irish Republic recorded at the height of the pandemic in April.
“The situation is grave and getting more so,” said Robin Swann, the region’s health minister.
Northern Ireland’s record was based on 6,447 tests, suggesting the virus is widespread. Almost one-third of the region’s roughly 18,000 cases have been diagnosed over the past week.
Northern Ireland is part of the United Kingdom and has a population of 1.8 million, while the population of the Republic, usually referred to as Ireland, is a shade under 5 million.
Ireland’s caseload topped 40,000 on Thursday after 506 new infections were reported out of over 19,500 tests.
Neighbouring regions along the open border between Ireland and Northern Ireland are reporting the highest virus incidence rates per 100,000 people in Ireland and the UK.
Pandemic-related curbs differ either side of the border, however, with Dublin on Wednesday reinstating some restrictions that were lifted in June.
Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney said on Friday that “a common approach” is needed. “There may be two jurisdictions… but it’s one landmass,” he said.
While urging caution, Northern Ireland First Minister Arlene Foster said “people will have to travel [across the border] for work and other exemptions.”
132 people in Northern Ireland are in hospital due to the virus, and 179 in Ireland, around a third of the levels seen during the April-May peak.
The official coronavirus-related death tolls stand at 587 in Northern Ireland and 1,816 in Ireland. A Dáil (parliament) committee in Dublin has recommended a public inquiry into deaths in nursing homes, which make up 56 per cent of the total in Ireland, chairman Michael McNamara said on Friday.Show