Today, Saturday 19 September, Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly TD announced that a new data set has gone live on the COVID-19 Data Hub, with case information now available at a Local Electoral Area level across Ireland.
Minister Donnelly said:
I understand that people really want to know more detailed information about this virus, how it is affecting their communities, and those around the country as a whole. The COVID-19 Data Hub now offers regularly updated Local Electoral Area data in order to fulfil this very real desire that is out there for transparency around this virus and its impact. Transparency is a key cornerstone of Ireland’s response to this pandemic. At this crucial time, it matters more than ever.
He added: “I am proud to announce that this has been done through collaborative hard work and effort between my Department, the Ordnance Survey Ireland, the All-Island Research Observatory, the Health Protection Surveillance Centre, the Health Service Executive, and the Central Statistics Office.”
I would like to commend the tireless commitment of those behind the scenes working on bringing timely, localised information to the general public at this critical time for public health surveillance. Thanks to them, compared to other countries, Ireland ranks highly in terms of the level of localised data on offer to the public.
How often is data on the COVID-19 Data Hub updated?
The confirmed and total deaths and cases of COVID-19 are updated daily at approximately 6pm. Statistics profiles and county data are updated daily at approximately 6pm Monday to Friday. ICU statistics are updated daily at approximately 12pm and 7pm. Acute hospital statistics are updated daily at approximately 9:30am, 2pm and 8pm. Laboratory Specimen Testing statistics are updated daily at approximately 3pm from Monday to Saturday.
The number of new COVID-19 cases in each Local Electoral Area (LEA) is published weekly on a Thursday, reflecting new cases notified in each LEA for the 14-day period up to midnight on the previous Monday.
What are Local Electoral Areas (LEAs) and why is data now published at this level?
There is an increasing desire for COVID-19 incidence rates to be published at a local level (below County level) on a frequent and timely basis. A balance must be struck however between satisfying this desire and the absolute need to minimise the risk to an individual’s privacy and confidentiality. The Department of Health (DoH) chaired a group which also included the Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC), Health Service Executive (HSE), Health Intelligenc Unit (HIU), Central Statistics Office (CSO), Ordnance Survey Ireland (OSi) and Maynooth University (MU) to look at options for geographic dissemination of COVID-19 incidence in Ireland.
The group reviewed the most appropriate level of geography at which to publish data in order to balance the public interest in regularly updated data for local areas and the requirement to minimise the risk to an individual’s privacy and confidentiality The Central Statistics Office advised that Local Electoral Area is the most appropriate level to achieve this. There are 166 LEAs in Ireland with an average population of 28,700 (ranging from 9,800 to 63,000). Each county and city is divided into a number of LEAs. The group recognised the need from the public and therefore are now reporting at the larger LEA level, rather than at Electoral Division ED) level which allows data to be reported for the most recent 14-day period, a key indicator of the current status of COVID-19.
What determined the rate interval groupings used on the LEA map?
The interval groupings for the published incidence rates have been based on the published range for European Centre for Disease Control (ECDC) countries as of mid-September 2020.
Why do the total number of cases by LEA not match the published total confirmed cases at a national level in the last 14 days?
To create the LEA map, the underlying data from the HPSC CIDR database has to be geo-coded, that is, each COVID-19 case has to be linked to a specific geographic location. This is done by the Health Intelligence Unit (HIU) at the HSE. However, not all cases can be geo-coded due to incomplete address information. Typically, 95% of addresses for cases can be geo-coded to the LEA of the individual.
Why are COVID-19 case numbers now being reported at Local Electoral Area (LEA) rather than Electoral Division (ED)?
We want to be able to provide more localised and frequent information of new cases of COVID-19. The Central Statistics Office (CSO) advised that Local Electoral Area (LEA) is the most appropriate level in order to minimise the risk to an individual’s privacy and confidentiality. Reporting at LEA will enable the public to access data on new cases of COVID-19 notified in their area on a weekly basis (for previous 14-day period). This new reporting geography will allow numbers of new cases of COVID-19 to be updated in a much more frequent and useful way than had been the case for reporting cases at the level of ED. Due to the small population size of EDs compared with LEAs, confidentiality and privacy concerns meant that it was only possible to update infrequently and to give cumulative numbers since the onset of COVID-19.
As described above, a number of issues exist with publishing and regularly updating COVID-19 incidence rates and case numbers data at ED level:
- ED populations are very small (approx. 1,400 on average) which is smaller than the average regions used for reporting in most other countries.
- The number of cases per ED can be very small so data for many EDs had to be suppressed (where <5 cases) to avoid identifying individuals and to protect their privacy, for larger areas this risk is lower so there is less need for suppression.
- Because of their small size it is not possible to publish data for the 14-day incidence rate at ED level, only cumulative data for a longer time period, which is less useful in understanding the current status of COVID-19 in an area.
- It is important that people feel confident to come forward for testing.
- An ED is such a small area that in reality people will travel between EDs for work, school, shopping and other normal day to day activities, by providing information for a larger geographic area the public can better weigh risk in their own daily lives and area.
Therefore, a decision was taken to publish data at LEA level instead. ED level would not now be an appropriate level of geography given the frequency of updating of new cases that is expected by the public.
Why are some Local Electoral Areas (LEAs) classed as <5 on the Hub?
Where an LEA has between 0 and 4 cases, the value is not shown (suppressed) to avoid identifying individuals and to minimise the risk to their confidentiality and privacy. This follows standard practice in statistical publications as advised by the Central Statistics Office.
Which basemaps are used in the maps on the Data Hub?
The basemaps used on the COVID-19 Data Hub are OSi MapGenie basemaps. MapGenie services are built on the authoritative geospatial data from Ordnance Survey Ireland, the national mapping agency and can be accessed from web applications, mobile applications and desktop GIS software.
Can I download the data on the Data Hub?
Yes, the following datasets are available to download directly from the COVID-19 Data Hub or from Ireland’s Open Data Portal at links below with the Local Electoral Area (LEA) data to follow shortly:
· COVID-19 County Statistics (polygons) – https://data.gov.ie/dataset/covid19countystatisticshpscireland
· COVID-19 County Statistics (point) – https://data.gov.ie/dataset/covid19countystatisticshpscirelandopendata
· COVID-19 Statistics Profile – https://data.gov.ie/dataset/covidstatisticsprofilehpscirelandopendata
· ICUBIS Historic Timeline – https://data.gov.ie/dataset/icubishistorictimelinepublicview
· Laboratory Tests Historic Timeline – https://data.gov.ie/dataset/laboratorylocaltimeserieshistoricview
What technology is used to build and maintain the COVID-19 Data hub?
The technology platform used is Esri’s ArcGIS Hub. ArcGIS Hub is a community engagement platform that organises people, data and tools through information-driven initiatives.
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