Covid: Nphet 'concerned' over Indian variant increase as 524 cases confirmed

ireland
Covid: Nphet 'Concerned' Over Indian Variant Increase As 524 Cases Confirmed
Chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan. Photo: PA Images.
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Sarah Mooney

A further 524 cases of Covid-19 have been confirmed by the National Public Health Emergency Team.

The country's chief medical officer, Dr Tony Holohan, said the team of health experts were “concerned” about a coronavirus variant first identified in India.

In a media briefing on Friday afternoon, Nphet confirmed that the number of cases of the variant identified in Ireland had now increased to 72 and warned it could impact the further easing of restrictions.

“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 public are keeping the disease under control and the HSE is increasing the number of people vaccinated every day.

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“But the variant may nevertheless pose a risk to the progress we have made. 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.”

Dr Cillian de Gascun, director of the National Virus Reference Laboratory, said: “The B16172 variant continues to increase, with 72 cases currently identified in Ireland.

“Given the size of our unvaccinated population and the apparent transmissibility of this variant, we would encourage people to remain vigilant and to continue to adhere to the public health guidance as the vaccine programme rolls out.”

Confidence

Meanwhile, the chair of Nphet's modelling advisory group told the briefing that the group was continuing to monitor "key indicators" of the disease in Ireland, despite a cyberattack on the health service's IT systems.

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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As of 8am today, 107 Covid patients were hospitalised, including 38 in ICU. 19 additional hospitalisations were seen over the past 24 hours.

The briefing also heard a warning over the risk of "long Covid" to younger people.

I would encourage our younger population awaiting vaccination to... avoid any risk of long Covid related illness

Dr Siobhán Ni Bhriain of the HSE said: “While evidence around long Covid continues to emerge, we do know that a cohort of the population exposed to Covid-19 are experiencing symptoms of fatigue, shortness of breath and other side effects months after their initial diagnosis.

“Covid-19 is a novel virus, it is unpredictable and so I would encourage our younger population awaiting vaccination to keep following the public health advice and avoid any risk of long Covid related illness.”

The briefing heard that increases in multiple forms of social activity had been recently recorded, as Covid restrictions lift.

Professor Pete Lunn of the ESRI's behavioural research unit said: “Our social activity measure has recorded increases in multiple forms of social activity — there are more people going to work, more visits to homes, individuals meeting with more people from outside their household, and higher numbers of close contacts.

“This is to be expected as restrictions lift. However, the data also reveal that these increases are much stronger among people who have been vaccinated.

“Most people who are not yet vaccinated are continuing to be cautious. Our data are consistent with the majority of people waiting until they are vaccinated before increasing their activity again.”

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