3,793 new cases confirmed as first case of Omicron variant identified in Ireland

3,793 new cases confirmed as first case of Omicron variant identified in Ireland

There has been a very rapid increase in testing across all child age groups under 18, particularly in the 5-12 grouping, and also in the 35-44 age group.

A further 3,793 cases of Covid have been confirmed as earlier today the first case of the newest variant of concern, dubbed Omicron, has been identified in Ireland.

At present, there are 578 people in hospital being treated for the virus, of these 117 are in ICU - five fewer than yesterday.

There has now been a total of 5,707 deaths related to Covid-19 notified in Ireland, including 55 additional deaths notified in the past week.

A Nphet briefing has confirmed that following whole-genome sequencing of historic test samples from the past two months on Monday, one out of eight samples was positively identified presenting as Omicron.

The briefing heard that while one case has now been identified, there may well be more given the small sample which had been tested.

The samples in question had been tested for a genetic attribute particular to Omicron, which was also present in testing on the initial alpha variant of Covid.

Ireland’s R or reproduction number for the virus appears to be holding steady at 1, while positivity percentages from testing have begun to fall across age groups, the briefing heard.

There has been a very rapid increase in testing across all child age groups under 18, particularly in the 5-12 grouping, and also in the 35-44 age group.

Dr Tony Holohan said today: “The NPHET Epidemiological Surveillance Team has been meeting regularly over the course of the last week to monitor the situation relating to the Omicron variant of SARS-CoV-2 and, today, we are confirming that one case has been identified in Ireland.

"The government has announced updated travel measures for all passengers travelling to Ireland from scheduled States. In the first instance, the current advice remains that all non-essential travel to or from these states should be avoided. 

"If you have travelled from any of Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa or Zimbabwe to Ireland since 1 November you should isolate and present for PCR testing, regardless of symptom status."

The Chief Medical Officer added that the key focus must be "to continue to suppress the current wave of infection that is driven by the Delta variant of Covid-19. We know how to break the chains of transmission of this virus. 

"The measures with which we are all so familiar have worked against previous variants of Covid-19, they can successfully suppress transmission of the Delta variant and we are optimistic that they will work against the Omicron variant.”

Concerns over the new variant has been raised by Nphet previously.

On Monday, health officials told leaders that it will be a fortnight before the effect of the Omicron variant can be assessed.

Much remains unknown about the new variant, including whether it is more contagious, as some health authorities suspect, whether it makes people more seriously ill, and if it can thwart the vaccine.

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