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Tuesday 7 February 2023 Dublin: 5°C
Leon Farrell/RN
# covid cluster
HSE says Athlone outbreak is 'probably' Delta variant as Tánaiste says there is reason for 'concern', but not panic
Leo Varadkar said the country is “still on track to ease restrictions further” on 5 July.

LAST UPDATE | Jun 22nd 2021, 12:31 PM

THE HSE IS appealing for people who were socialising by the river Shannon in Athlone on 11 June to attend Covid-19 test centres, saying that identified cases are “probably” the Delta variant. 

The Department of Public Health in the Midlands announced last night that it is investigating the cluster of suspected cases of the variant which is becoming more prevalent in Ireland – making up 20% of last week’s case numbers. 

Speaking on his way into Cabinet this morning, the Tánaiste Leo Varadkar said the Delta variant “will become dominant in Ireland” and it’s yet to be determined whether this will result in an increase in hospitalisations.

“There is definitely reason for concern – not reason for panic at this stage,” Varadkar said.

“We’re still on track to ease restrictions further on the 5th of July but we won’t be able to make the final decision on that until next Thursday, until we’ve seen more data and we have the most up-to-date advice from NPHET.”

Dr Una Fallon, director of public health HSE midlands, said that officials can only appeal to the community that might have been at risk to present for testing due to the vagueness of information around the Athlone gathering.

“It’s particularly difficult for us to investigate or control this type of setting,” Dr Fallon told Morning Ireland.

“We can have a school outbreak or a workplace outbreak and it’s very easy to engage with the stakeholders, get a very precise list of who was exposed, identify close contacts, get them tested, track them, and put controls in place – there is a beginning, middle and end to the outbreak.” 

Dr Fallon said there are 14 primary cases associated with the gathering on the west side of the river on 11 June, however, the basic cluster has been linked to the local community.

“People travel to locations together, people leave together and we do have information that there were some house parties on that on that evening,” Dr Fallon said, noting that it cannot be said that these cases originated as a result of outdoor transmission only. 

 “It’s all of the risks that surround that gathering that lends itself to transmission but we do know that the delta variant is more transmissible.” 

Anybody who was socialising in that area of Athlone and is now showing symptoms is being asked to get a test. The HSE said this can be booked online here or a walk-in test centre will open in Athlone at St Aloysius School on Thursday, Friday and Saturday. 

Cabinet is due to be briefed on vaccinations and the prevalence of the Delta variant today.

Last night, chief medical officer, Dr Tony Holohan, said he was “concerned” by the growth of the Delta variant here.

Holohan said what we are experiencing in Ireland is similar to what is happening in several other EU states. He noted that Delta had been the dominant strain for a number of weeks in Britain, and now they are beginning to experience a rise in hospitalisations.

“It is really important that people who are not fully vaccinated continue to follow all public health advice. This includes people who are waiting for their second dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine.

“People should take a vaccine when it is offered to them and in the meantime they should continue to avoid crowds, limit contacts, avoid meeting up indoors and work from home where possible.”

- Additional reporting by Orla Dwyer.

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