3,735 new Covid cases as measures taken against Omicron variant 

3,735 new Covid cases as measures taken against Omicron variant 

The Department of Health said that 566 Covid patients are in hsopital, of which 117 are in intensive care. File picture

A further 3,735 cases of Covid-19 have been recorded, the Department of Health has confirmed as regulations are being drawn up to give effect to the new travel and home quarantine policies.

The Department said that 566 Covid patients are in hospital, of which 117 are in intensive care.

It comes as the Nphet Epidemiological Team confirmed on Saturday that it is meeting regularly over the weekend to monitor the Omicron variant situation.

It is currently considering further measures as Britain, Germany, Italy and Australia detected cases of the new variant.

On Sunday Dr Holohan said that the Nphet Epidemiological Surveillance Team continue to meet this weekend to monitor the situation in relation to the new variant and regulations are being drawn up to give effect to the new travel and home quarantine policies.

The discovery of the Omicron variant has sparked global concern and a wave of travel bans or curbs.

In a statement on Saturday evening, the Department of Health said that while not formally notified by European Alert Systems, it is aware of media reports of the new variant cases.

A series of initial measures have been put in place to help prevent the arrival of the new coronavirus variant to Ireland.

The Nphet Epidemiological Team is "meeting regularly over the weekend to monitor the situation and are currently considering further required measures," the Department said.
The Nphet Epidemiological Team is "meeting regularly over the weekend to monitor the situation and are currently considering further required measures," the Department said.

Measures currently in place include applying the “emergency brake” in respect of the countries concerned, updating visa requirements for those countries and changing travel advisory to “avoid non-essential travel” to these countries, which are Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe.

"Irish residents returning home from these countries will be required to undergo strict home quarantine regardless of vaccine/recovery/test status and undergo PCR testing during quarantine."

The Department of Transport has also engaged with carriers to ensure that all relevant pre-departure requirements are rigorously complied with while Mandatory Hotel Quarantine options are being examined on a contingency basis, the statement said.

The two linked cases of the new variant detected in Britain were connected to travel to southern Africa, according to British health minister Sajid Javid.

Speaking on Saturday, Boris Johnson laid out measures that included stricter testing rules for people arriving in the UK but that stopped short of curbs on social activity other than requiring mask-wearing in some settings.

"We will require anyone who enters the UK to take a PCR test by the end of the second day after their arrival and to self-isolate until they have a negative result," Mr Johnson told a news conference.

A new coronavirus variant has been detected in South Africa that scientists say is a concern because of its high number of mutations and rapid spread among young people in Gauteng, the country's most populous province. (AP Photo/Jerome Delay, File)
A new coronavirus variant has been detected in South Africa that scientists say is a concern because of its high number of mutations and rapid spread among young people in Gauteng, the country's most populous province. (AP Photo/Jerome Delay, File)

Those who had come into contact with people testing positive for a suspected case of Omicron would have to self-isolate for 10 days and the government would tighten up the rules on wearing face coverings, he said, adding the steps would be reviewed in three weeks.

The health ministry in the German state of Bavaria also announced two confirmed cases of the variant.

The two people entered Germany at Munich airport on 24 November before Germany designated South Africa as a virus-variant area, and were now isolating, said the ministry.

In Italy, the National Health Institute said a case of the new variant had been detected in Milan in a person coming from Mozambique.

Czech health authorities also said they were examining a suspected case of the variant in a person who spent time in Namibia.

Omicron, dubbed a "variant of concern" by the World Health Organization, is potentially more contagious than previous variants of the disease, though experts do not know yet if it will cause more or less severe Covid-19 compared to other strains.

Dutch authorities said that 61 out of around 600 people who arrived in Amsterdam on two flights from South Africa on Friday had tested positive for Covid-19.

Dutch health authorities said on Sunday that 13 cases of the new Omicron coronavirus variant have been found in the Netherlands among the passengers.

Health authorities were carrying out further tests to see if those cases involved the new variant.

The variant was first discovered in South Africa and had also since been detected in Belgium, Botswana, Israel and Hong Kong.

Many countries around the world - including the United States, Brazil, Canada and European Union nations - announced travel bans or restrictions on southern Africa.

-Additional reporting by Reuters

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