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NPHET warns public to be vigilant as Indian COVID-19 variant raises serious concerns; rise in cases may impact further easing of restrictions

DUBLIN: Health experts in Ireland say the coronavirus variant first identified in India is deadly. The National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET) has expressed grave concern over the Indian COVID-19 variant.

The number of cases of the Indian variant identified in Ireland has now risen to 72, the chief medical officer Dr. Tony Holohan confirmed yesterday at the NPHET briefing. The NPHET also hinted that the increase in case numbers could impact the further easing of restrictions in Ireland.

“NPHET is closely monitoring variants of concern, and are concerned about possible higher transmissibility of the so called Indian variant and its spread in other countries, as well as early reports of its impact on vaccine effectiveness,” Dr. Holohan said.

The CMO warned that, even though the public is following all health guidelines and vaccination is progressing in the country, the Indian variant is a risk factor that goes beyond all of this. “NPHET will keep a close eye on this as we move towards the end of May and consider the advice we need to provide to Government on any further easing of restrictions,” he added.

Dr. Cillian de Gascun, director of the National Virus Reference Laboratory, reminded the public to remain vigilant and continue to strictly adhere to the public health guidelines in light of the increase in B16172 variant (Indian variant) in Ireland and its rapid transmissibility.

The Indian version has two strains, B1617.1 and B1617.2. Last week, only 41 cases of the B16172 variant were identified in Ireland. This highly transmissible COVID strain is also rapidly spreading in the UK.

The B1617 was declared a global variant of concern two week back by the World Health Organisation. It is also said that the variant might be resistant to vaccines, as there have been cases in India of fully-vaccinated people had become infected with COVID-19.

524 new COVID cases

Meanwhile, a further 524 cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed by the health officials yesterday.

Data on the number of people who have died from COVID-19, as well as case numbers by county, have not been published due to the HSE cyber-attack.

As of yesterday morning, 107 patients were being treated for COVID-19 in hospital, 38 of whom were in intensive care units.

Professor Philip Nolan said: “The number of people hospitalised and in ICU are stable, the daily incidence is stable and the amount of people protected through vaccination continues to grow.

“We have confidence that if we can continue to limit transmission of Covid-19 through our individual behaviour and compliance to public health advice, the vaccination effect will lead us to further easing of measures in the near future.”

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