Seven isolating as Covid-19 Indian variant hits Northern Ireland for the first time
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A CLUSTER of Indian variant Covid-19 cases have been detected in Northern Ireland.
The first time the strain is believed to be more transmissible than the original virus has been identified in the region.
The first three cases on the island were detected last month in the Republic.
Chief medical officer Dr. Michael McBride said a detailed health protection risk assessment would begin around discovering the mutation in Northern Ireland.
He said: “This news is not entirely unexpected, and plans are in place for such an eventuality.
“While preventative measures – including travel restrictions – are essential, the assessment is that these will delay rather than permanently prevent the spread of variants already detected elsewhere on these islands.”
He said there is no suggestion that the variant will become the dominant strain in Northern Ireland.
‘CAUTION IS STILL ESSENTIAL’
But he explained that it shows “why caution is still essential about Covid-19.
“The most effective way to stop variants developing or spreading is to keep pushing down infection rates and transmission of the virus in our community.
“All variants spread in the same way. We protect ourselves and others by following public health advice and getting vaccinated when our turn comes.”
It is thought that the cluster may be linked, potentially confined to a small number of households.
Dr. Stephen Bergin, director of public health at the Public Health Agency, said identification of the Indian variant in the region was “inevitable at some point.”
He said the cases had been identified at several locations but said no further details could be given due to patient confidentiality issues.
“Whilst it is a disappointing development, it underpins the need for continued vigilance and adherence to the public health guidance – currently there are no additional measures that the public need to take on the back of this, but it is essential that people continue to work within the regulations and advice,” he said.
“We ask that the public remain vigilant, keep their interactions with others down, continue following the health advice to limit the spread of Covid-19, and engage with the Contact Tracing Service if identified as a confirmed case or a close contact and follow the advice given.”
There were no further deaths of patients who had previously tested positive for Covid-19 in Northern Ireland announced on Thursday.
The Department of Health said there had been an additional 102 cases of the virus confirmed in the previous 24-hour reporting period.
On Thursday morning, there were 67 Covid-19 positive inpatients in the hospital, of whom seven were in intensive care.