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Coronavirus Northern Ireland: First three cases of Omicron variant detected

Three cases discovered in the Belfast and South Eastern Trust area

Paul Givan says devolved nations to meet on Thursday to discuss variant approach

Michelle O’Neill says news ‘concerning but not unexpected’

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A Covid-19 antigen test. Photo: Stock image

A Covid-19 antigen test. Photo: Stock image

A Covid-19 antigen test. Photo: Stock image

The first Omicron Covid-19 variant cases have been confirmed in Northern Ireland, according to the Department of Health.

They said three cases have been confirmed in total - two in the same household in the greater Belfast area and a third unconnected case in the South Eastern Trust area.

All three positive cases have linkages to travel from Great Britain to Northern Ireland, with the department confirming there is no current indication of wider community transmission present.

First Minister Paul Givan said ministers from all the devolved nations will meet on Thursday, while Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill described the news as “concerning but not unexpected”.

Coronavirus Data Graphs

She said it was “more important than ever” people folow public health guidance.

Chief Medical Officer Professor Sir Michael McBride said: “This is a development we have been expecting and preparing for since we were first made aware of the Omicron variant.

“Targeted actions by the Public Health Agency - including testing and enhanced contact tracing - are ongoing to investigate and assess these cases. There is no evidence at this time of wider community transmission in Northern Ireland.

“This is not a time for panic, but for sustained caution. We are awaiting further data on this new variant and the extent of the public health threat it represents.

“It is undoubtedly a cause for concern and has the potential to spread rapidly, adding significantly to the already severe pressures on health and social care services.

“We will continue to liaise closely with public health colleagues across these islands."

On Tuesday, the Prime Minister Boris Johnson said it was “too early to draw conclusions on the characteristics of Omicron” but “early indications were that it was more transmissible than Delta”.

The total number of cases of the Omicron variant across the UK stands at 437 according to the latest information.

Prof McBride said people should continue to follow the “simple steps” to help prevent transmission of the virus.

“Given the evidence of community transmission of Omicron elsewhere in the Common Travel Area, we would once again advise people to take a Lateral Flow Covid-19 test before travelling to Northern Ireland from England, Scotland, Wales or the Republic of Ireland,” he said.

“It is more important than ever that we continue to follow the simple steps that will help stop the spread of all variants of COVID-19.

“The more we prevent and break chains of infection, the more breathing space we can give to our health service and to the ongoing roll-out of our vaccine booster programme.

“So please follow public health advice. This includes – getting vaccinated and getting your booster dose when eligible, cutting down on your contacts, social distancing, only meeting up outdoors or in locations with good ventilation, wearing a face covering and washing hands well and often.

"Please work from home if at all possible and take regular Lateral Flow tests to cut down the risk of infecting others.

“If you have Covid-19 symptoms, self-isolate and book a PCR test without delay.

“We have to remain vigilant - that is how we can look after each other.”


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