Health Minister ‘deeply concerned’ about new Covid variant

Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly is “deeply concerned” about a new Covid variant identified in Africa.

he Department of Health said it had been monitoring the emergence of the new variant B.1.1.529, which has been found in a number of countries in southern Africa and in Hong Kong.

The UK Government and Northern Ireland Executive have announced that six African countries have been added to their international travel red lists amid concerns that the new variant could potentially have implications for transmissibility, clinical impact and vaccine effectiveness.

The WHO has not yet designated this variant as a variant of concern

A statement from Ireland’s Department of Health said: “The World Health Organisation (WHO) is meeting tomorrow to further assess the significance of this variant.

“The WHO has not yet designated this variant as a variant of concern.

“The ECDC (European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control) has reported that it continues to monitor all emerging evidence in relation to this variant.”

The statement added: “The department is aware of measures taken by the Government of the United Kingdom including the suspension of flights from a number of African countries.

“No cases of this variant have been reported in Europe to date, but the Minister for Health is deeply concerned.

“The department has been in contact with colleagues in Northern Ireland and we will continue to liaise with UK authorities.

“The department’s advice to the minister will continue to be informed by relevant guidance emanating from the ECDC and the WHO.”

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