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Three cases of South African Covid-19 variant detected in Northern Ireland

The North’s health minister said this development demonstrates the need for continued caution.

Image: Shutterstock/Horth Rasur

THREE CASES OF the South African variant of Covid-19 have been detected in Northern Ireland, health officials have said. 

These are the first confirmed cases in that jurisdiction, after a number of cases were recorded in the Republic of Ireland last month

The North’s Department of Health said today that a detailed health protection risk assessment and contact tracing response has been deployed. 

It added the risk of transmission is judged to be low at this time. 

Health Minister Robin Swann said: “I have previously been clear that identification of a confirmed case or cases of this variant in Northern Ireland was inevitable at some point.

“This development does not mean that this variant is going to become the most prevalent, or the dominant strain in Northern Ireland.

“However, it does underline once again the very real need for continuing caution in relation to Covid-19.”

Earlier this month, NPHET member and virologist Cillian De Gascun said that all 11 cases of the South African variant detected in Ireland were as a direct result of travel.

South Africa itself suspended the start of its AstraZeneca inoculation programme over concerns the shot does not work as well on the SA variant.

Deputy Chief Medical Officer Dr Ronan Glynn said that while all variants of the disease are concerning, there are still three vaccines which work to suppress the most prevalent variants Ireland is seeing. 

“Early preliminary information on the AstraZeneca vaccine in relation to the South African variant suggests that it may not be as good in that, for that particular variant,” he said.

“And a key part of the challenge is to keep those variants out. And when they do, as they will, arrive on this island to identify them, and contain them as swiftly as possible and ensure that there isn’t any onward spread. And hopefully, so far we’ve managed to do that from relation to South Africa.”

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Separately today, a further five people have died in Northern Ireland after testing positive for coronavirus.

Another 225 cases of the virus were also reported this afternoon.

There are 376 Covid positive patients in hospital, with 48 in intensive care.

With reporting from Cónal Thomas

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Sean Murray

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