The Health Minister is set to be questioned in the Assembly on plans for dealing with the Omicron variant of Covid-19 in Northern Ireland.
Cases of the variant first identified in southern Africa have been detected in England as well as several other countries in Europe, prompting travel restrictions to be imposed.
The Department of Health has not notified if any cases of the variant have been found in Northern Ireland so far.
SDLP health spokesperson Colin McGrath said he has submitted an urgent question to Health Minister Robin Swann on the Executive’s plan against Omicron.
“It is very worrying to hear about the spread of this new highly transmissible variant,” he said.
“In the weeks ahead, this strain has the potential to significantly impact daily life here in the North and set us back in our fight against Covid-19.
“Health service staff across Northern Ireland are already working under immense pressure to keep our communities safe.
“We know that this will be a difficult winter ahead with normal pressures combined with Covid-19 but the arrival of this fast-spreading variant will cause real concerns about how the health service will cope.
“It is important that we learn as much as possible about this new variant, its transmissibility and how we can combat it through our vaccination programme.”