Health Minister Stephen Donnelly said there are “more than 10” possible cases of the Omicron variant in Ireland.
Speaking this lunchtime, Mr Donnelly said a trawl of samples being undertaken has found “just over ten” cases with what is called “S-gene dropout”, which is associated with Omicron.
He said a full genomic sequencing process is now underway on those samples.
Speaking earlier, Mr Donnelly ruled out any immediate escalation of social restrictions beyond what is expected tomorrow in relation to children.
The three party leaders in Government are meeting with public health officials today to discuss the emergence of this new variant.
Speaking on RTÉ radio, Mr Donnelly said the government plans to subsidise antigen testing have been set aside due to the market “doing that already”.
He said the Cabinet will take decisions tomorrow in relation to curbing social activities for children for the coming weeks.
He added that he understands the difficulties such restrictions will cause, but they are “sensible” in light of the high rate of the virus in children.
Mr Donnelly said commercial pantomime shows will still be able to continue but the advice will be that children do not attend. When pressed how is that viable, Mr Donnelly said the Government will step in and offer supports to those businesses affected.
Last night, Chief Medical Officer Dr Tony Holohan warned that while there is much attention on new variants, incidence of the Delta variant in Ireland was “too high”.
He said that there was still widespread infection in the community.
He urged people to continue to take action to prevent the spread of the virus, including good hand hygiene, wearing a face covering, meeting others outdoors where possible and, when indoors, opening windows and ensuring good ventilation.
He also called for people to get vaccinated and to come forward for the booster jab when eligible.
Mr Donnelly also confirmed that anyone who lives with someone who returns to Ireland from South Africa or the other countries named last week - Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Mozambique, Namibia, or Zimbabwe - will have to isolate for 10 days.