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'serious and concerning' Covid-19 variant Omicron 'could already be in Northern Ireland' says NI Health Minister

Mr Swann also hit out at anti-vaxxers, urging the public not to allow themselves to be 'bullied'

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Health Minister Robin Swann (Liam McBurney/PA)

Health Minister Robin Swann (Liam McBurney/PA)

Health Minister Robin Swann (Liam McBurney/PA)

Northern Ireland’s Health Minister, Robin Swann, has said the new Covid-19 variant Omicron could already be in Northern Ireland.

Speaking to assembly members yesterday, he said that while there were no cases of the variant confirmed in NI, which the World Health Organisation has said could have a higher re-infection rate, “it is highly likely that this position could change in the coming days”.

He added: "In light of the cases identified in England and Scotland, it is to be expected that there may already be cases of the variant in Northern Ireland."

Mr Swann also warned the new variant has the “potential to act as a further shock to our health and social care system” this winter, describing it as a “serious and concerning development”.

Mr Swann also conceded it was likely Northern Ireland would see Omicron cases but urged a refrain from panic.

From Tuesday, those arriving into Northern Ireland, even if they are fully vaccinated, will be required to self-isolate.

They will be required to take a PCR test before the end of day two, and will be able to leave isolation if the test comes back negative.

Swann also hit out at anti-vaxxers, saying: “Let us not be bullied or distracted by the tiny minatory of anti-vaxxers and their fellow travellers.”

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