Omicron now accounts for 27% of new Covid-19 cases, says Donnelly

According to the Minister for Health, people in their 40s will begin to receive appointments for their booster shots next week.
Omicron now accounts for 27% of new Covid-19 cases, says Donnelly

The Omicron variant of Covid-19 now makes up 27 per cent of all new cases, Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly has said.

As reported in The Irish Times, Mr Donnelly was providing an update on Covid-19 in the Dáil alongside the Minister for Education Norma Foley.

“Last week the Omicron variant made up about 1 per cent of all new cases in Ireland. By the weekend it was up to 5 per cent,” Mr Donnelly said.

“On Tuesday, the rate reported was 14 per cent. Today, just two days later, I can confirm to the House that the Omicron variant now comprised over 27 per cent of all new cases.”

According to the Minister for Health, people in their 40s will begin to receive appointments for their booster shots next week.

This comes following comments by the Taoiseach Micheál Martin on Thursday that Omicron's capacity to spread rapidly is causing "significant concern" among European Union nations, with the threat a key focus at today's EU Council summit.

Potential 'Omicron-specific' vaccine

According to Micheál Martin, the European Union’s vaccine acquisition team is now co-ordinating with pharmaceutical companies to gain supplies of a potential “Omicron-specific” vaccine.

“The commission are looking at working with the pharmaceutical companies now, for example, on an Omicron-specific vaccine. That’s on the cards, that’s on the agenda,” Mr Martin said.

Vaccine manufacturers, such as Pfizer and Moderna, are able to tweak vaccines to cope with mutations in the virus, the Taoiseach explained.

The Taoiseach warned that the new variant meant a “significant wave” was coming. © PA Wire/PA Images

“Certainly the commission are looking at that, and the steering board has been engaging with the pharmaceuticals,” Mr Martin said.

“We do know the pharmaceuticals, particularly mRNA manufacturers have the capacity to create formulations that respond to particular variants. And my understanding is that that discussion is ongoing in respect of Omicron.”

Existing contracts between the EU and manufacturers include agreements that vaccines would be updated if needed.

On Wednesday, EU Commission president Ursula von der Leyen said updated vaccines could be ready as early as March if approved by the European Medicines Agency.

Results from trials for anti-viral pills to treat Covid-19 infections were a sign of hope for the coming year, Mr Martin said.

“I think this is another plus another positive for 2022, which is why I’m more hopeful in terms of looking for the next 12 months,” Mr Martin added.

However, the Taoiseach warned that the new variant meant a “significant wave” was coming.

“We’re in a different phase, a very significant wave coming. And I think we have to be intelligent in terms of how we combat that.”

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