Digital Desk Staff
Senior Government officials have been warned about the threat from the new Omicron Covid variant, with chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan telling a meeting on Wednesday that the incidence of Covid-19 remains very high and the future trajectory of the new variant was uncertain.
As the Irish Times reports, there is a fear the situation in Britain could be mirrored here in coming weeks, a threat that could prompt restrictions on non-essential international travel over the Christmas period.
It is understood no new modelling of the virus was presented to the meeting and Dr Holohan did not indicate the National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet) would propose any further restrictions, although some sources say the latter remains a possibility next week, when public health officials will have further data on the new variant’s spread.
One senior figure said Omicron may now be in Ireland “in significant numbers”, after the first case of the variant was confirmed here recently.
Dr Holohan is understood to have expressed concern at the spread of the new variant in the UK and some European countries. However, there was better news from the US, where vaccine-maker Pfizer said tests had shown the booster dose of its Covid-19 shot offers significantly enhanced protection against Omicron.
Vaccines for children
Meanwhile, the HSE has stepped up plans to roll out Covid-19 vaccines to children aged between five and 11 after the National Immunisation Advisory Committee (Niac) approved use in that age group.
Some first doses could be given before Christmas, to children with underlying health conditions or to those living with siblings with complex medical needs or a person who is immunocompromised, before a more general rollout in January.
The HSE is expected to receive its first delivery of doses of the Pfizer children’s vaccine, which is about one-third of the dose given to adults, from EU supplies next week.
On Omicron, Tánaiste Leo Varadkar said Wednesday: “There isn’t an awful lot that we know about it at this stage. There are some suggestions that it is more transmissible than Delta, but also less severe, and that there is vaccine escape.”
It cones as there are 543 people with Covid-19 in hospital and a further 118 people in ICU.