Nine more cases of the new strain of Covid-19 first discovered in Britain have been detected in the Republic.
As the Irish Times reports, Dr Cillian De Gascun, the director of the UCD National Virus Reference Laboratory, said that testing of samples dating from December 23rd to 29th had found nine further cases of the more infectious variant.
He said this brought the total number of cases identified by the laboratory to 16, out of 169 tested to date.
Dr De Gascun said on Twitter the small number of cases identified would suggest that the UK variant, “at a proportion of less than 10 per cent”, was not responsible for the recent “significant and concerning” increase in coronavirus case numbers.
His comments come amid ongoing concern over the rapid rise in the level of coronavirus infections across the State and fears over the knock-on impact on the health service.
Further testing this week of #SARSCoV2 samples dating from #December 23rd to 29th has detected 9 additional #UKvariant cases in #Ireland. This brings the total number of cases identified @nvrlucdireland to 16 (of 169 tested to date) 1/2 https://t.co/gBEy0VjXO7
— Cillian De Gascun (@CillianDeGascun) January 1, 2021
On Saturday morning, HSE chief executive Paul Reid said 581 patients were in hospital with Covid-19, an increase of 51 on 8pm on Friday night. He said 50 were in intensive care. Mr Reid said on Twitter: “We have likely not seen the worst impacts yet. But everything we do today to stop this virus spreading makes a huge difference.”
Another 1,754 cases of Covid-19 were confirmed on Friday night, but due to reporting delays, more than 9,000 additional new cases will be recorded in the coming days.
Health Service Executive chief clinical officer Dr Colm Henry said on Friday that measures to control the virus were impacting the hospital sector already.
“There are over 400 beds out of commission in recent days,” he said, due to infection-prevention measures “related in many cases to Covid-19 and, secondly, inability to staff beds” because staff have Covid-19 or are deemed a close contact.