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Coronavirus Ireland 381 new cases and no further deaths as Tony Holohan warns Indian variant is 'black cloud on horizon'

Nphet will meet next week to consider the easing of restrictions over the month of June.

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Another 381 confirmed cases of Covid-19 have been reported today by the National Public Health Emergency Team.

There were no further deaths reported.

A total of 110 Covid-19 patients are in hospital, of whom 42 are in intensive care units as the public were urged to keep taking precautions even as reopening plans progressed.

Chief Medical Officer Dr Tony Holohan said yesterday that Nphet is closely monitoring variants of concern, and are concerned about possible higher transmissibility of the so-called ‘Indian’ variant and its spread in other countries as well as early reports of its impact on vaccine effectiveness.

He said the variant was the “black cloud on the horizon”, with 72 cases of the variant already identified in Ireland. Health chiefs are worried that it may be more transmissible than the British B117 variant.

Nphet will meet next week to consider the easing of restrictions over the month of June.

Dr Holohan said that health chiefs would examine new research from the UK which shows that the first dose of the vaccine may not be as effective in reducing transmission against the Indian variant.

“In broad terms you could characterise it that the sky is blue but there’s a black cloud on the horizon which is the Indian variant,” he said.

“We are concerned genuinely about the reports we’re seeing with credibility attached to them, the increased transmissibility of the variant.”

Dr Holohan said that officials are “not operating” on the basis that reopening in June may be rolled back on the back of the emergence of the new virus.

“We have to keep a very close eye on all of the merging data, evidence about this disease, vaccination and the experience of vaccination,” he said.

“It will be our job if we see evidence that tells us that we need to do something different to advise that,” he said.

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“I have to raise the flag of the possibility of this Indian variant getting in the way but at this point in time. I’m not saying that this requires us to definitely roll back on measures that are currently in place,” he added.

Meanwhile, the chair of the Irish Epidemiological Modelling Advisory Group, Professor Philip Nolan, revealed that he would receive Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen jab on Sunday.

“Despite recent challenges to the health service’s IT systems, we continue to monitor key indicators of the disease in Ireland,” he said.

"The number of people hospitalised and in ICU are stable, the daily incidence is stable and the amount of people protected through vaccination continues to grow.

“We have confidence that if we can continue to limit transmission of Covid-19 through our individual behaviour and compliance to public health advice, the vaccination effect will lead us to further easing of measures in the near future.”

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