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latest figures Coronavirus: 4,842 new cases, 9 further deaths confirmed

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A further nine deaths linked to Covid-19 and 4,842 new cases of the virus have been confirmed in Ireland by the Department of Health this evening.

Overall, there has been a total of 2,336 Covid-19 related deaths, and there is now 140,727 cases.

Of the cases notified today, 1,049 are in Dublin, 530 in Cork, 514 in Waterford, 405 in Wexford, 247 in Louth and the remaining 2,097 cases are spread across all other counties.

There are currently 1,293 Covid-19 patients in hospitalised, 119 of which are in ICU.

Meanwhile, health experts have expressed concerns that the Covid-19 vaccine may not be as effective against the new South African variant of the virus.

Preliminary data from South Africa shows that the effectiveness of antibodies "is not quite as good" against the variant when compared to the original strain, it has emerged.

Dr Cillian De Gascun, UCD National Virus Reference Laboratory Director, said the South African variant is a big concern.

He said there is no evidence yet that the transmissibility differs greatly between the South African and UK strains.

"The UK variant and the South African variant both share a single change in the spike protein, which is the N501Y amino acid change," he told Newstalk.

"We know from studies that this appears to change the effectiveness of the virus, or basically makes it better at attaching to cells.

Dr de Gascun said this means it is associated with a higher viral load, which health officials believe is responsible for the increased transmissibility of the strain.

"I think what's caused concern about the South African variant is that it had additional changes or mutations in the spike protein which is the region of the virus which attaches to cells...and that elicits an immune response," he said.

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