Another potentially worrying coronavirus variant has been identified in Ireland for the first time, according to public health officials.
A single case of the B1525 variant, which emerged earlier in the UK and Nigeria, has been found through genome sequencing, a National Public Health Emergency Team briefing has heard.
As The Irish Times reports, the variant has a number of mutations that may help the virus evade neutralising antibodies and could therefore lessen vaccine effectiveness.
A further four cases of the B.1.351 variant first identified in South Africa have also been found here, bringing the total to 15, according to Dr Cillian de Gascun, director of the National Virus Reference Laboratory. Most are related to travel, he said.
The number of cases of the P1 variant first identified in Brazil remains at three, he added.
Some 15 per cent of cases are now being sequenced so that variants can be detected, Dr de Gascun said.
A further 35 deaths of Covid-19 patients were reported by the National Public Health Emergency Team on Thursday. One of the deaths dates from November and 12 from January, while 21 occurred in February.
Those who died ranged in age from 53 to 102 years and the median age was 85.
This brings to 4,271 the total number of deaths in the pandemic.
Nphet also reported 613 more confirmed cases of the disease.
We are making good progress and can see that many of the key indicators of disease levels in our communities are continuing to fall,” according to deputy chief medical officer Dr Ronan Glynn. “This progress is the reason we are able to reopen our schools in a cautious and phased basis.”
“However, we must remember that Covid-19 is still circulating at a high level and, we are still seeing positivity rates of around 15 per cent in the community.
"As we see more of our children return to school next week, it is important that we continue to follow all of the public health guidance, including on the school run.”