Infections caused by the Delta variant of the coronavirus remain too high in Ireland amid focus on new variants, the country’s chief medical officer has warned.
The weekend has seen increased focus on the new Omicron variant of the virus and its potential impact on Ireland, as neighbouring countries confirm cases and nations around the world scramble to impose measures to prevent the variant's spread.
With no cases of the Omicron variant yet identified here, the Delta variant continues to dominate in Ireland and a further 3,735 cases of Covid-19 were confirmed in the State on Sunday. There were 566 people hospitalised with the virus as of this morning.
Dr Tony Holohan on Sunday evening said focus must remain on the “widespread” infection levels in the community at present and urged vigilance against all variants of the virus.
“While there is much attention on new variants, incidence of the Delta variant of Covid-19 remains too high in Ireland, with widespread infection in the community,” he said.
“We all know the actions to prevent the spread of Covid-19 - good hand hygiene, wearing a face covering, meeting others outdoors where possible and, when indoors, opening windows and ensuring good ventilation, keeping your distance and, of course, coming forward for vaccination and booster dose when eligible.”
Dr Holohan said the Nphet epidemiological surveillance team is continuing to meet this weekend to monitor the situation regarding the new Omicron variant.
“Regulations are being drawn up to give effect to the new travel and home quarantine policies,” he said.
He urged anyone who has travelled from Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa or Zimbabwe to Ireland since November 1st to isolate and present for PCR testing, regardless of their symptom status.
Although no case of the Omicron variant has been confirmed in Ireland to date, Professor of Health Systems at Dublin City University, Anthony Staines, said it is “probably here already” but has not been identified yet due to a lack of genetic sequencing.
Cases of the variant have been confirmed in nearby neighbours Britain, the Netherlands, Germany, Belgium, Italy and Denmark, after it was first identified in South Africa earlier this week.
The World Health Organisation on Friday classified Omicron as a "variant of concern," noting it may be more transmissible and have an increased re-infection risk. The Delta variant remains dominant worldwide, and it is not yet clear whether Omicron will be able to displace it.