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Local restrictions are likely to be imposed in Ireland to prevent spread of Indian COVID-19 variant

DUBLIN: Indications that there could be local restrictions in Ireland due to a rise in cases of the Indian variant of COVID-19. The B1617.2 (Indian variant) is likely to be more transmissible than the UK variant, and 41 cases of this variant have been reported in Ireland so far, the public health officials said.

In order to tackle this deadly variant, health officials suggest that lockdowns or similar restrictions should be implemented. The quick response came as the UK saw a new surge in COVID-19 cases linked to the Indian variant. British officials are considering lock lockdowns and targeted vaccination to halt the spread.  

Chief Medical Officer Dr. Tony Holohan shared the possibility of imposing local restrictions if necessary. “When we’ve had the need to, in the past, take specific measures against specific variants, we’ve done that. Some of the arrangements are in place in terms of travel are a perfect example of that,” he said.

The Indian version has two strains, B1617.1 and B1617.2. So far, the country has reported 20 cases of the B16171 strain and 41 cases of the B16172 strain, said Chairman of Nphet’s Coronavirus Expert Advisory Group, Dr. Cillian De Gascun.

“B1617.2 is the one that we’re more concerned about at the moment, based on the experience in India and in the UK,” Mr. De Gascun said.

“I don’t think will be unreasonable to implement public health measures on a basis to allow us to seek more information, whether that’s enhance testing or enhanced contact tracing,” he added.

Expert warns

Prof Sam McConkey, an infectious diseases expert, has advised the Irish government not to open travel to the UK until more information on the impact of the Indian variant of COVID-19 is available. He warned that good control is needed in order to avoid the “fourth wave” of the COVID-19 in Ireland.

The number of new COVID-19 cases linked to Indian variant has more than doubled in the UK, from 520 last week to 1,313. This rapid spread has caused health officials and ministers in the UK to consider imposing local restrictions.

Prof. McConkey said the increase in cases in the UK comes at a time when high-level vaccinations are underway. However, there is no evidence that the B16172 variant is resistant to current vaccines.

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