New variant ‘far more contagious’ with early evidence of ‘rapid spread’ in Ireland

ireland
New Variant ‘Far More Contagious’ With Early Evidence Of ‘Rapid Spread’ In Ireland
The Health Minister said the Government had now received early evidence of its rapid spread in Ireland. Photo: Getty Images.
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Reporting by Press Association

The Covid-19 situation is as serious as it has ever been since the start of the pandemic, according to the Health Minister.

Stephen Donnelly added a new variant of the virus recently identified in the UK was “far more contagious” than anything else Ireland had dealt with so far.

Speaking on his way into a Cabinet meeting expected to finalise new restrictions, the Minister said the Government had now received “early evidence” of the variant’s rapid spread in Ireland.

“The situation now to my mind is as serious as it’s been since the start of this,” Minister Donnelly said.

This UK variant is unlike anything we have dealt with in this country so far

“We got more evidence last night, it’s still early evidence, but more evidence of the prevalence and the rapid spread of the UK variant.

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“This UK variant is unlike anything we have dealt with in this country so far. We’re seeing what it’s doing in the UK and what it is doing in countries across Europe.

“We know it’s here; the only question is to what level it is here. It is far more contagious than anything we have dealt with so far,” he added.

“So regardless with what Cabinet decides today, everything is focused around one message: which is stay at home.”

March lockdown

The Minister advised anyone who was in the vulnerable category to think back to the first lockdown and how everybody behaved.

“Think back to how careful everybody was and how careful everybody became,” he said. “Think like that again but remember this variant is more contagious.”

“We’ve got to look out for each other now. We’ve got to slow this down,” he added.

Minister Donnelly’s comments come after Government sources confirmed last night that a quarter of positive Covid-19 cases sampled in Ireland were found to contain the more infectious variant.

Samples had previously suggested that the UK variant accounted for less than 10 per cent of cases in the Republic.

Amid surging case numbers and hospitalisations, Cabinet Ministers are meeting this afternoon to finalise further public health restrictions.

Schools are set to shut for the month while creches will only be open to children of essential workers.

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'Life and health has to come above everything else...
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The majority of construction work is also expected to halt, with exemptions for essential projects.

It is also expected that new requirements for travellers to provide proof of a negative Covid-19 test will be introduced, while there will be a ban on click and collect services for non-essential retailers.

The number of people currently in hospital with the virus has now surpassed those recorded at the peak of the pandemic’s first wave.

There are currently 921 people with Covid-19 being treated in Irish hospitals this morning — the highest number since the pandemic began — with 75 people in intensive care.

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