Second case of Omicron variant identified in Ireland

A second case of the Omicron variant of Covid-19 has been detected in Ireland
Second case of Omicron variant identified in Ireland

James Cox

A second case of the Omicron variant of Covid-19 has been detected in Ireland.

The variant of concern, first detected in South Africa, was first identified in Ireland on December 1st.

The State’s National Virus Reference Laboratory, which tracks variants in the country, submitted an update on the variant to Gisaid on Wednesday. Gisaid is an international consortium that tracks variants of coronavirus.

Speaking at the weekly HSE Covid-19 briefing, chief executive Paul Reid said that he expected Omicron to become more dominant in Ireland. He said it is still unknown when this would happen, however, the HSE was putting preparations in place.

“We expect it is only a matter of time before we are looking at significant numbers of cases of Omicron. We expect it to become more dominant. The timeframe is unknown,” he said.

Christmas

Mr Reid said the HSE was awaiting information over whether the Omicron variant leads to higher levels of hospitalisation, which could bring more uncertainty over the Christmas period when the health service will already be under extra pressure.

HSE chief clinical officer Dr Colm Henry said the transmissibility of the Omicron variant remained unknown, however, he said it may have a growth advantage over other variants.

Dr Henry said it was "too early" to draw conclusions on the impact the Omicron variant will have.

He told the briefing that some predictions had forecast it could become the dominant variant in Europe by the beginning of January.

Pfizer tests

Meanwhile, preliminary testing shows that a booster shot of the Pfizer vaccine offers as much protection against Omicron as the first two doses give against other variants of the coronavirus.

The Pfizer jab accounts for 86 per cent of all vaccines given in Ireland so far, with 6.4 million doses administered, including booster shots.

Laboratory work by manufacturers Pfizer and BioNTech found two doses "may not be sufficient” to protect against Omicron, but a booster shot dramatically improves the odds, easing fears that Omicron could evade vaccines and present an entirely new challenge for the scientific community.

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