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Dr Tony Holohan says new Covid variant from UK detected in Ireland as 1,025 new cases confirmed

The latest figures were confirmed in a statement from NPHET today.

File photo. Dr Holohan and Professor Nolan at last night's briefing.
File photo. Dr Holohan and Professor Nolan at last night's briefing.
Image: Sasko Lazarov/Rollingnews.ie

A FURTHER 1,025 new cases of Covid-19 have been confirmed in Ireland, the National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET) has said this afternoon.

In a statement, it said that a further two people confirmed to have Covid-19 have died.

The death toll from Covid-19 in Ireland is 2,194, and the total number of confirmed cases is now at 84,098.

In a statement this Christmas Day, Chief Medical Officer Dr Tony Holohan said: “I can confirm that we have detected the new UK variant of SARS-CoV-2 by whole genome sequencing at the National Virus Reference Laboratory in UCD.”

“Further testing in the coming days and weeks will establish the extent to which it is present here. In the meantime, it is vitally important that we each stay at home, avoid social contact and avoid all forms of non-essential travel.

It is particularly important that those who have arrived from the UK strictly self-isolate for a full 14 days following arrival. They should not interact with others, visit others, socialise or go shopping. The HSE is making arrangements to test recent arrivals from the UK. Full details of advice and procedures are available at www.hse.ie.

Public health authorities and ministers have said that it was likely that the new Covid-19 strain detected in the UK was present in Ireland. 

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said last week the new variant was 70% more transmissable as he announced strict lockdown measures for London and the south-east of England. 

However, at a press conference earlier this week, director of the National Virus Reference Laboratory Dr Cillian De Gascun said there is not yet any “hard evidence” that the new Covid-19 strain circulating in the UK is more infectious than other strains.

De Gascun said the strain is “a cause for concern” but that the evidence is not there yet to say for sure that it is more infectious.

“I don’t think we have seen the evidence for that interpretation at this point in time,” he said.

Certainly there are significant case numbers in various regions of the UK and it has become the dominant strain over the last four or five weeks, certainly it’s a cause for concern. There are some genetic markers that might explain why it would be more infective, and perhaps might be more efficient at transmitting, but we haven’t seen the hard evidence for that

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Earlier this week, Professor Philip Nolan told reporters at the NPHET briefing that the country is “clearly now in a third wave of this pandemic”. 

As cases rose sharply, the government announced that the country would be placed under Level 5 restrictions, with some modifications, from Christmas Eve.

Yesterday, gastropubs and restaurants shut their doors again.

Household visits will be limited to one other household after 26 December, down from the current limit of two other households. From 1 January, no household or garden visits will be permitted.

Inter-county travel will also be restricted from 27 December, though people who have already left their county can remain in another county until they are due to return home. 

About the author:

Sean Murray

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