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More than 7,500 cases of mutant Covid variants detected here since December

24th April 2021

More than 7,500 cases of mutant strains of Covid-19 have been detected here, some in children and some in people over the age of 65, in recent months, it emerged yesterday.

There remain fears that our road out of lockdown could still be derailed if one of the more powerful mutant viruses takes hold here.

The new versions of coronavirus include ‘variants of concern’ which are more infectious and may make vaccines less effective.

Others are deemed ‘variants of interest’ which are under surveillance and may become variants of concern.

The figures reveal the extent to which the country has been exposed to these variants from the middle of December to mid-April during lockdown and how they led to outbreaks.

The mutant strains were picked up through advanced screening at the National Virus Laboratory in UCD,

Around 6,623 of the cases involved the UK variant, which is now dominant here, since December.

However, the figures from the Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC) also show variants which originated in eight other parts the world, including South Africa, Brazil, New York, California, Mayotte – which is an island in the Indian ocean – and India.

There have been 55 cases of the South African variant and 24 of the Brazilian variant, the strains which are most feared.

The South African variant was detected in eight children under the age of 18 years and in four people over age 65.

There have been 21 outbreaks involving the South African variant and eight involving the Brazilian.

The Brazilian variant has also been found in two children, with eleven cases in people aged between 19 and 34. 

The Indian variant, which accounts for three cases, is still classed as variant of concern and there remain fears it could be linked to some of the huge surge of infection in India.

A decision has yet to be made on whether to add India to a list of countries from where travellers must enter mandatory hotel quarantine.

The HPSC said that around 1,000 virus specimens a week are now being “sequenced”, a more in-depth form of laboratory analysis, to try to detect any of the variants.

Mandatory hotel quarantine was set up for people travelling from designated countries in a bid to capture and contain these variants before they could potentially spread.

It comes as one additional death and a further 434 new cases of the virus were reported yesterday.

The daily toll is down from the worrying 617 spike on Thursday, but it remains high as public health officials face into a crunch week setting out the pace at which the country will reopen from lockdown.

There were 19 people hospitalised in the 24 hours to yesterday morning, with 176 suffering from Covid-19 in a ward, including 48 in intensive care.

Yesterday’s cases included 217 in Dublin, 30 in Kildare, 30 in Cork, 27 in Limerick, 21 Donegal, with the remaining 109 spread across 20 other counties.

Meanwhile, there was a 65pc increase in new confirmed Covid-19 cases among employees in the construction sector – from 49 to 81 a week, in the week ending April 17.

More than one-in-five reported cases during that time were employed in the wholesale and retail trade or in garages repairing cars and motorbikes, according to Central Statistics Office figures.

Dublin accounted for just under two fifths of cases in that week.

Donegal was second highest, while Sligo was the county with the highest average number of contacts per positive case – at 6.5 for the week ending April 16.

Figures yesterday show that Donegal, Offaly, Kildare and Longford had the highest 14-day incidence.

It was lowest in Kilkenny, Cork and Kerry.

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