Government ‘always concerned’ about new Covid variants, says Taoiseach

Government ‘always concerned’ about new Covid variants, says Taoiseach

(Brian Lawless/PA)

The Taoiseach has said there is always concern around new Covid variants emerging as he urged people to get their vaccine boosters.

It was confirmed at the weekend that two cases of a newly classified variant of concern had been detected in Ireland.

On May 12 the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) reclassified two sub-lineages of the Omicron variant of Covid-19, BA.4 and BA.5, from variants of interest to variants of concern.

Chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan’s latest weekly report on Covid-19 to Health Minister Stephen Donnelly said two cases of BA.4 had been identified by the week beginning May 7.

Taoiseach Micheál Martin said the threat of emerging variants remains a constant concern.

“Covid, in its most recent manifestation in terms of Omicron, proved it could be a disruptor of normal activity and work-life activity because of isolation periods and so forth, whilst it’s not been as as virulent as earlier variants,” Mr Martin said on Monday.

“The BA.4 seems to have escaped the infection immunity of the vaccines, but I would appeal to people, particularly those who are in the position to get additional vaccines and those who are immunosuppressed or over 65, to please get your vaccines.

“There is no doubt that vaccines prevent serious illness from Covid-19 and that is the evidence.

Dr Tony Holohan (Julien Behal/PA)

“We are always concerned about new variants and their potential to disrupt the situation.”

In his letter, Dr Holohan said: “In the context of the international situation in relation to these variants, it should be noted that, as of week 18 2022 (May 7), two cases of BA.4 and no cases of BA.5 have been identified in Ireland.

“ECDC reports that BA.4 and BA.5 were first detected in South Africa in January and February 2022 respectively, and since then they have become the dominant variants there.

“ECDC has indicated that the currently observed growth advantage for BA.4 and BA.5 is likely due to their ability to evade immune protection induced by prior infection and/or vaccination, particularly if this has waned over time.”

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