Healthcare news

South African variant of Covid-19 detected in Northern Ireland

Maeve Connolly

The first confirmed cases of the South African variant of Covid-19 have been detected in the north, Health Minister Robin Swann has confirmed.

Three cases have been diagnosed and Mr Swann said the risk of transmission was judged to be low and a health protection risk assessment and contact tracing response had been established.

"I have previously been clear that identification of a confirmed case or cases of this variant in Northern Ireland was inevitable at some point," the health minister said.

"This development does not mean that this variant is going to become the most prevalent or the dominant strain in Northern Ireland.

"However, it does underline once again the very real need for continuing caution in relation to Covid-19."

Last week health chiefs in the Republic said three cases of the Brazilian variant had been confirmed, and all were directly associated with recent travel from the South American country.

Around 90% of Covid-19 cases in the Republic are associated with the UK variant.

Health Minister Robin Swann said all variants of Covid-19 spread in the same way and stopping the spread of the virus meant "following the tried and tested public health advice".

“That means staying at home, cutting down your contacts if you have to go out, avoiding busy indoor settings with poor ventilation, washing your hands carefully and often, and wearing a face covering.”

The development comes as another five people died and 225 others were diagnosed with Covid-19 in the north.

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