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New strain New fast-spreading Covid-19 variant not detected in Ireland, expert says

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Dr Cillian De Gascun (Brian Lawless/PA)

Dr Cillian De Gascun (Brian Lawless/PA)

Dr Cillian De Gascun (Brian Lawless/PA)

A new coronavirus variant whose discovery caused alarm in the UK has not been detected in Ireland, one of the country’s top health experts has said. 

The British Health Secretary Matt Hancock told the House of Commons yesterday that the new variant was “growing faster than the existing variants”.

The warning prompted alarm across the UK where over 1,000 cases with this new variant had been identified, predominantly in the south of England, and in nearly 60 different local authority areas.

However, the director of the National Virus Reference Laboratory, Cillian De Gascun, who is also a member of the National Public Health Emergency Team, said no cases of the new strain of Covid-19 has been identified here or in Northern Ireland.

Speaking on RTÉ's News At One, he added, "there is no evidence at this point in time that the virus should pose a significant concern".

He reassured the public that while it was not impossible, it was "very unlikely" that a single mutation would knock out the vaccine response.

Martin McKee, Professor of European Public Health at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, also described the new variant of Covid-19 as not "significantly different".

It should not take too long to see if the new vaccines will work on it, he told RTÉ's Morning Ireland.

Professor McKee said news of the new strain of the virus was announced in a "very unusual way, particularly given that there have been so many other mutations over the past number of months that were not announced in the same way".

He added that the mutation could well mean that the virus has weakened.

Earlier, British virologist Dr Chris Smith told BBC Breakfast that, despite being spread more quickly, the new variant of coronavirus may not be any "nastier".

"Once it infects you, once it gets in you, it doesn't actually make you any iller," he said.

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