A circular was sent to GPs on Monday to advise them to “maintain increased awareness” about the possibility of Covid-19 in patients arriving in Ireland from Denmark, the Covid clinical lead of the Irish College of General Practitioners (ICGP) has said.
Dr Nuala O’Connor told RTÉ radio’s Morning Ireland that the circular had been distributed to GPs at the request of the Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC).
The update was in relation to people travelling from Denmark and the risk of introducing a new strain of Covid-19 linked to a mutation identified in minks in Danish mink farms.
“The 14 days of restricted movement is critical to prevent introduction of this strain to Ireland,” she said.
The circular requests GPs to “maintain increased awareness of the possibility of Covid-19 in persons who have travelled from Denmark in the previous 14 days.”
We have to prevent this mutation becoming the dominant strain. It could affect how the vaccine works
GPs are also requested to advise the person to self isolate and limit their contacts for 14 days and to arrange a Covid test for the patient if they display any symptoms.
Dr O’Connor explained that the circular was part of an ongoing service by the ICGP to its members during the pandemic, in conjunction with public health officials.
“We have to prevent this mutation becoming the dominant strain. It could affect how the vaccine works.”
Dr O’Connor said that while the virus had been mutating from when it was first identified, and that was normal, so far it had not gotten more serious. It was important that a deadlier form did not develop which was why it was important to “stop this mutation.”
Speaking yesterday evening at a Department of Health briefing, Dr Cillian de Gascun of the National Virus Reference Laboratory said the mutation should not yet spark major concern in the Republic.
“It’s far too early to be overly concerned, but I think at a worst case scenario perspective, you’re potentially starting a vaccination programme with a mutant that is potentially resistant to the antibodies that the vaccines are going to elicit," he said.
"That’s the worst case scenario, so I think it’s really important what the Danish authorities have done.”
Denmark is now undertaking a massive cull of up to 17 million mink, with calls for a humane culling of the animals in Ireland also sparked.
Veterinary Ireland (VI) has said it would be prudent to dispose of the animals under the supervision of Department of Agriculture officials.
The Department of Agriculture said it has maintained contact with Irish mink farms and while a testing regime is to be implemented, no Covid cases have been identified to date.
The mutated strain of Covid led to the effective lockdown of several towns in Denmark in an attempt to halt its spread.
The situation has prompted a ban on travel from Denmark into the UK.
In Ireland, the Government has said that until further notice passengers arriving from Denmark are requested to self-isolate for 14 days.