Video: New Covid variant, booster vaccine for over-16s, advice on children's gatherings

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James Cox

New Covid variant

Minister for Justice Helen McEntee has said that if hotel quarantine measures are required to deal with the new South African variant “then that's what we will do.”

It comes as the Covid adviser for the Irish College of General Practitioners (ICGP), Dr Mary Favier warned that if the new South African variant of the virus manages to “out run” Delta, then “we will have a problem.”

It was still unknown if vaccines would work against the new variant which was why so much attention was being paid to it, she told Newstalk Breakfast.

On RTÉ radio’s Morning Ireland immunology expert, Professor Christine Loscher said she expected the World Health Organisation (WHO) to move the status of the new variant from one of interest to one of concern in the near future.

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The new variant was of concern because of the number of mutations in the spike proteins, and it was still unclear how this variant would respond to vaccines. It was a case of wait and see the impact, she said.

The European Union’s executive has said it wants to stop air travel from southern Africa to counter the spread of the new Covid-19 variant.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said that she “proposes, in close coordination with the member states, to activate the emergency brake to stop air travel from the southern African region”.

Booster vaccine approved for over-16s

Covid-19 booster vaccines have been approved for all people aged over 16 following a recommendation from the National Immunisation Advisory Committee (Niac).

The advice was endorsed by chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan and accepted by Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly.

Pregnant women will be offered the booster vaccine first followed by people in their 40s and then down the age cohorts in descending order.

The additional dose will be given at least five months (three months for the Janssen vaccine) following completion of the primary vaccination schedule.

If a person in a group for whom a booster dose is recommended has had laboratory confirmed Covid-19 infection after a completed primary vaccine course (a breakthrough infection), the booster dose will be delayed for at least six months after the Covid infection was diagnosed.

New advice on children's gatherings

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The National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet) has made new recommendations to the Government amid the latest surge of Covid-19.

As reported in The Irish Times, it is understood that Nphet has advised the Government that children aged nine and under should wear masks in schools and other indoor areas.

It is further understood that, in a letter to the Minster for Health Stephen Donnelly, Dr Tony Holohan said indoor gatherings for children should be avoided for the next two weeks.

This recommendation is expected to include activities such as nativity plays, sleepovers, birthday parties and playdates.

This comes as the State recorded a further 4,764 new cases of the virus on Thursday. At 8am, there 598 Covid patients in hospital, 126 of whom were in ICU.

According to The Irish Times, Nphet is also advising that the requirement of Covid passes is extended to indoor spaces such as gyms, hairdressers and personal services.

Balbriggan murder investigation

The man whose body was discovered in "unexplained circumstances" on Wednesday afternoon in Dublin has been named by Gardaí and a murder investigation has been launched regarding his death.

The body of 65-year-old Christopher Hall was found at a domestic residence at Dun Saithne Green, Balbriggan shortly after 2pm on Wednesday.

Personnel from Dublin Fire Brigade and uniformed gardaí attended the scene where Mr Hall was found with "obvious significant head and upper body injuries".

Gardaí confirmed Mr Hall, who lived alone in the house, was pronounced dead at the scene.

A statement released on Thursday afternoon added that he was a quiet man "who kept to himself" and was vulnerable due to a medical condition.

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