Video: New Covid variant detected in Belgium, boosters for over-16s, 700 new Penneys jobs

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Belgium detects first case of new Covid variant in Europe

Belgium has detected the first case of the new coronavirus variant which was first found in South Africa, a virologist said on Friday.

Health minister Frank Vandenbroucke told a news conference that a case of variant B.1.1.529 had been found in an unvaccinated person who had developed symptoms and tested positive on November 22nd.

"It is a suspicious variant. We do not know if it is a very dangerous variant," he said.

Belgium's national reference laboratory said the infected person was a young adult woman who had developed symptoms 11 days after returning from a trip to Egypt via Turkey. She had flu-like symptoms, but no signs to date of severe disease.

None of her household members developed symptoms, but were being tested.

The Government will consider introducing more restrictions from next week, given the rise of a new Covid variant in southern Africa.

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The Minister for Finance has indicated that further restrictions will be discussed at Cabinet, while the Tánaiste has said the State will “act quickly” in its response to the new variant.

The B.1.1.529 variant, which scientists fear may be more transmissible than the dominant Delta variant, has been discovered in South Africa’s most populous province of Gauteng.

Covid booster vaccines approved for people over 16

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.

Man who claimed dead parents’ pension spent €1 million

A man who fraudulently claimed the pensions of his dead parents for 33 years has gambled away close to €1 million he received in payments, a court has heard.

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Donal O'Callaghan, of Churchfield Green, Cork, appeared before Cork Circuit Criminal Court having pleaded guilty to 73 sample counts of social welfare fraud dating back over three decades, of which 68 counts relate to theft whilst five refer to false documentation in support of the fraudulent claims.

Defence Barrister Ray Boland, SC, told Judge Helen Boyle that his 58-year-old client suffers from a major gambling problem.

"The situation is that he has a gambling addiction and gambled it all away."

Mr Boland said that his client knows he is facing prison. However, he said Mr O'Callaghan needs to sign up for a gambling diversion programme given his chronic addiction.

Penneys to create 700 new jobs as part of €250 million investment

Retailer Penneys is to create 700 new jobs as part of a €250 million investment in stores in Ireland.

The company will significantly increase its total retail space and plans include a new store in The Square in Tallaght, which will open in autumn next year, employing 300 people.

It also includes a €60 million investment in the redevelopment and extension of the Patrick Street store in Cork city, and an extension at the Eyre Square outlet in Galway.

A new distribution centre in Newbridge, Co Kildare, is due to open in 2024.

Speaking at Penneys’ headquarters in Dublin, Tánaiste Leo Varadkar said it was an “enormous vote of confidence” in the retail sector in Ireland.

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