Belgium has reported the first case of the new COVID-19 variant in Europe.
Belgian health minister Frank Vandenbroucke confirmed the news, although stressed there was no need to panic as much remains unknown about the new variant known as B.1.1.529.
Virologist Marc Van Ranst had earlier said the case was in a person who returned from Egypt on November 11th and first started showing symptoms 11 days later.
In Belgium, one sample was confirmed as the novel B.1.1.529 variant (in a returning traveller from Egypt (11/11); first symptoms on 22/11).
— Marc Van Ranst (@vanranstmarc) November 26, 2021
The Irish Government is expected to introduce restrictions on travel from southern African countries today in response to the identification of the new strain in the region.
The UK has already moved to block travel from a number of countries, with the EU also examining an 'emergency brake' on travel from affected regions.
The European Commission has recommended that all air travel to the countries should be expected until there's a clearer understanding of the variant.
Ursula von der Leyen says anyone returning home from the countries should "respect strict quarantine rules".
Early evidence on the new strain suggests it's more transmissible than Delta.
However, the World Health Organisation has warned against travel restrictions at this stage.
Speaking yesterday, WHO's Dr Mike Ryan said: "We have not fully assessed any threat or risk associated with this variation.
"This happens - viruses evolve. It's not the end of the world, and the sky is not falling in.
"There is this idea that we’re just waiting for the next variant... and I don’t want people to spend their lives worrying about that every day.”
Meanwhile, Munster Rugby says it's in the process of getting the squad out of South Africa amid concerns over the new variant.
They were due to play two matches there, but the games have now been called off.
Munster Rugby says the entire squad have tested negative for COVID this week, after a training week in Pretoria.