A total of 215 cases of the Delta plus Covid variant have been detected on the island of Ireland, health agencies on both sides of the Border have confirmed this week.
There have been 90 cases of the variant detected in the Republic, while the North's Public Health Agency (PHA) has confirmed 125 cases.
According to The Irish Times, the Health Protection Surveillance Centre looked at 85 cases identified as of October 29th and found 54 people had symptoms. However, no symptoms specific to the strain were identified where detailed information was available.
Further details on the Delta sub-lineage – known by its scientific name AY.4.2 – is expected when the HPSC publishes its next surveillance report on Covid-19 variants in circulation in the State.
Dr Brid Farrell, deputy director of public health at the PHA, said it does not appear the variant causes more severe disease or renders the vaccines currently deployed any less effective.
She added: “Identification of a case or cases of this variant in Northern Ireland was inevitable at some point, particularly as society has opened up in recent months and most restrictions have been lifted.
“Our genome sequencing capabilities are also ahead of those of most other countries, so it is not surprising that the UK has identified cases.
“This development underpins the need for continued vigilance and adherence to the public health guidance for Covid-19 – 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.”
Variant Under Investigation VUI-21OCT-01 detected in Northern Ireland! While evidence is still emerging, so far it does not appear this variant causes more severe disease or renders the vaccines currently deployed any less effective. More info @ https://t.co/bAHpWbSiPN pic.twitter.com/0OoZWzLPwv
— Public Health Agency (@publichealthni) November 3, 2021
The new strain, which is a mutation of the existing Delta variant, has been found in at least 42 countries, including Ireland, Britain, India and the United States.
The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA), formerly Public Health England, has designated it a “Variant Under Investigation”, but it is not currently deemed to be a variant of interest or concern.
Dr Farrell asked the public to remain vigilant and to exercise caution.
She said: “Wear a mask and maintain appropriate distance when required, when meeting people indoors, open windows and doors to ventilate the room.
“Vaccine uptake is also an important means of securing protection against Covid-19 infection.
“The coming weeks will be very busy, with a significant escalation of the booster programme, along with the school-based programme and the ongoing provision of first and second doses. We would appeal to everyone to get vaccinated if you are eligible.
“The significant benefits of vaccination are clear. It protects you and those close to you.
“The emergence of new strains is fully anticipated and the Public Health Agency is prepared for dealing with this. If the agency assesses as things progress that it is necessary to take further actions, this will be fully communicated.
“Remember the best way to stop variants developing or spreading is to keep pushing down infection rates and transmission of the virus in our community.
“By sticking to public health advice, working within the regulations, getting vaccinated when eligible, and avoiding becoming complacent, we can all play a role in tackling Covid-19.”