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Has Ireland made a better job of responding to coronavirus than the UK?

  • Video report by ITV News Political Correspondent Carl Dinnen

International comparisons are tricky; the UK and Ireland have quite different population densities and global connectivity for a start.

But Northern Ireland, which has tended to follow the UK approach to the virus, might make a more valid comparison.

Mike Tomlinson, Professor Emeritus of Social Policy at Queens University Belfast has looked at the numbers.

It’s not straightforward as the UK and Ireland produce slightly different types of statistics.

But taking hospital deaths (up to April 24) as a pretty robust measure, he has found a rate of 147 per million in Northern Ireland compared to 82 per million in Ireland.

The overall death rate also indicates a significant disparity.

Ireland started the lockdown process earlier: schools closing on March 12 in the Republic and on March 23 in Northern Ireland.

But Prof Tomlinson thinks the continuation of testing and contact tracing in the Republic was the key difference.

On Monday, the Northern Ireland Executive tentatively restarted contact tracing with a pilot scheme.

It’s far too early to say whether any one approach has conclusively delivered a less severe outcome; there could be further peaks and the full effects of the lockdowns are unclear.

But so far, the Irish approach seems to have been more effective in reducing the number of coronavirus deaths.

Whether it is possible to compare Irish and Northern Irish death rates accurately is a matter of some debate.

For more on the differences and on Professor Tomlinson’s calculations see FactcheckNI’s article.