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Professor Philip Nolan, Dr Tony Holohan and Dr Ronan Glynn at a NPHET briefing earlier this year. Leah Farrell

NPHET meeting and considering further measures after Omicron variant detected in Europe

The new variant has not yet been detected in Ireland.

THE NATIONAL PUBLIC Health Emergency Team (NPHET) is meeting regularly this weekend in the wake of the new coronavirus variant Omicron being identified in more countries around the world. 

The Department of Health said it is aware of reports of the new variant of the virus being detected in the UK, Italy, Germany and Belgium. 

The new variant has not yet been detected in positive Covid-19 cases in Ireland. 

NPHET is monitoring the situation and “currently considering further required measures”.

In recent days, a number of measures were agreed by government after details emerged of the strain which the World Health Organization (WHO) has designated a ‘variant of concern’. 

The measures include people arriving from a number of southern African nations being required to home quarantine for 10 days upon arrival into Ireland regardless of their vaccination status.

They also require a pre-flight PCR test and two negative tests during the time of their isolation. 

The Department of Foreign Affairs has also changed its travel advisory to “avoid non-essential travel” to Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe. 

NPHET said Mandatory Hotel Quarantine (MHQ) options “are being examined on a contingency basis”.

The Health Minister Stephen Donnelly said the Chief Medical Officer Dr Tony Holohan advised government to consider reintroducing MHQ in this instance.

Donnelly told RTÉ News that he will bring legislation around this to the Oireachtas early next week which may be used if “we decide it is something to bring in”.

The first known confirmed Omicron infection was from a sample collected on 9 November. In recent weeks, infections in South Africa have increased steeply, coinciding with the detection.

This variant has a large number of mutations, some of which are concerning, according to the WHO.

The health body said that evidence suggests an increased risk of reinfection with this variant compared to other variants of concern.

But it added that said it could take several weeks to complete studies of the variant to see if there are any changes in transmissibility, severity or implications for Covid vaccines, tests and treatments.

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