294 confirmed cases as Donnelly says data on Delta variant is 'sobering'

294 confirmed cases as Donnelly says data on Delta variant is 'sobering'

The Government says the further reopening of the country remains on track for now, despite the concerns. Picture: Damian Coleman

There have been 294 further cases of Covid-19 confirmed this evening as the Health Minister warns the Delta variant must be taken seriously.

According to the latest figures from the Department of Health, there are currently 39 Covid patients in hospital - down 14 since yesterday.

It is the lowest number of Covid patients in hospital since September 1. The number of patients in ICU remains unchanged at 13.

Stephen Donnelly says the data emerging on the Delta variant is sobering.

The strain, first detected in India, accounts for around one in five new cases here.

Mr Donnelly says the Delta variant appears more infectious and transmissible and must be taken very seriously.

"We have seen a high percentage of cases now in Northern Ireland although their total case numbers remain very low. We have seen a lot of cases in Derry, for example," said Mr Donnelly.

"We are watching it carefully. I am concerned about the Delta variant and we are watching it on a daily basis and will be watching it through this week as well."

The Government is urging people to make sure they receive both doses of vaccine in order to be properly protected against variants.

"It seems that the vaccines are less effective after just one dose. Two doses is really what is required for the high effectiveness," said Mr Donnelly.

One virus expert has said the Delta variant isn't having as big an impact as previous strains of Covid-19.

Sam McConkey said the mortality in the UK is at about one in 1,000 of the people diagnosed with the Delta variant.

"That is ten times less than what we had with the previous one because it is happening in younger people, mostly younger than 35," said Mr McConkey.

"Even the hospitalisation is just 1-2% so it isn't having as big an impact."

Professor of Immunovirology at UCC, Liam Fanning, says the country is in a different position from post-Christmas as most vulnerable people are now fully vaccinated.

"Our hospitals have enormous capacity at this stage to handle a very large hospital requirement for Covid-19 and I don't see us getting back to where we were in January where we were overwhelmed," said Prof Fanning.

The Government says the further reopening of the country remains on track for now, despite the concerns about the Delta variant.

The Cabinet will be briefed by the Nphet next week, ahead of the final decision to proceed with further reopening - including indoor dining and drinking - on July 5.

Speaking this afternoon, Tánaiste Leo Varadkar said there is reason for concern but not panic regarding the Delta variant while Green Party leader Eamon Ryan said that if people can keep their distance for the next two or three weeks "we should be ok".

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