Omicron variant ‘likely’ in Ireland – Donnelly

Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly has said “it is likely” that the new Covid variant, Omicron, is in Ireland.

“I think it is likely at this point that we will be identifying cases here in the coming days,” he told RTÉ’s Today with Claire Byrne.

He said officials were focusing strongly and urgently on the new variant.

The scientific community is investigating if the new variant is more transmissible, more severe and what impact the vaccine might have on it, he added.

There is a big question mark over this new variant, the minister said, and so there is no government right now that can predict what measures might be in place at Christmas.

He also indicated that Government will not now be subsidising antigen tests because the market has already reduced the prices to more affordable levels.

It comes as the leaders of the three Coalition parties are due to meet Chief Medical Officer Dr Tony Holohan today to discuss the Omicron variant and the wider Covid situation.

The National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET) has been assessing the guidance it received from its epidemiological team, which has been monitoring the variant situation across Europe this weekend.

Minister Donnelly said that “at this point” no major changes are being proposed in terms of Covid-19 restrictions.

He said that the recommendations are based on a wide number of things and there has been a stabilisation of hospital numbers of the last two and a half weeks.