A DATA analyst has dismissed Edwin Poots’ claim that Covid hotspots are more prevalent in Catholic areas and said that poverty is the key factor linked to outbreaks.
Peter Donaghy said people in more socially deprived areas are more likely to have jobs that don’t allow to them to work from home, thereby increasing their face-to-face contacts and risk of infection.
The Belfast data expert warned that due to the end of furlough many workers found themselves in an “impossible situation” of being forced to choose between buying essentials and self-isolating.
Mr Donaghy, who is also an accountant, singled out countries like Germany where government support schemes have been extended until next year and virus rates are considerably lower.
He told The Irish News it was “completely counter intuitive” to remove financial support from those most impacted.
“If you look at the least deprived areas in Northern Ireland such as Holywood and Hillsborough, people in those areas are more likely to have jobs which means they can work from home,” he said.
“And if you examine multiple deprivation measures, there’s housing issues as well. Where you have people in council standard housing, that’s going to be it difficult for them to self-isolate.
“It stands to reason where ultimately if you have a job with a zero hours contract, if you don’t show up you’re not going to be paid. People are going to be put in an impossible position where they need to work to afford basic essentials or self-isolate.”
Last Friday Mr Donaghy posted a graph on social media challenging DUP minister Edwin Poots over his controversial claims that the difference in transmission rates between nationalist and unionist areas is around “six to one”.
In a Twitter post, the analyst extrapolated figures from the Department of Health daily dashboard – which last week introduced postcode breakdowns – and noted the stark differences between more affluent and deprived areas.
Mr Donaghy wrote: “The key factor behind areas badly hit by Northern Ireland’s 2nd Covid-19 wave isn’t religion, but poverty. Only 1 of NI’s 40 least deprived postcode areas has over 400 weekly cases per 100k, a quarter of the most deprived 40 areas do.
He added: “Can’t believe this needs to be said, but no, it isn’t true that only majority Catholic areas are Covid-19 hotspots. The most recent positivity rate was over 14.5 per cent in all council areas in Northern Ireland.”
Latest figures show that Derry and Strabane have highest number of positive cases per 100,000 population, the highest of all council areas in the north.
Mr Donaghy also pointed to higher levels of post-conflict deprivation in predominantly nationalist areas.
“It comes to a broader truth is there there are a lot more social deprivations in more Catholic majority areas, such as west Belfast and Derry,” he said.
As pressure mounted on Mr Poots to apologise amid accusations he is attempting to sectarianise the crisis, the Department of Health also appeared to reject his comments yesterday.
A department spokesman said it was “important to avoid finger pointing and stigmatising when it comes to differential Covid infection rates.”
“It is also vital to stress that Covid-19 represents a threat to everyone in society, regardless of their background, and that it is spreading across the community in NI.
“For the record, data on positive tests is not collected according to religious or political affiliation.”
— to www.irishnews.com