Three cases of a coronavirus variant first identified in India have been detected in Ireland.
The B.1.617 was first identified in the Maharashtra region of India earlier this year and now accounts for around 60% of cases there.
It has two key mutations and scientists are investigating whether they make the variant more resistant to vaccines.
Some 77 new cases of the variant have also been detected in the UK and India has since been placed on the UK’s red list for travel.
Speaking at this evening’s public health briefing in Dublin, the chair of the COVID-19 Expert Advisory Group Dr Cillian de Gascun said it has not yet been designated a ‘variant of concern’ by Irish officials.
“Perhaps just in the context of recent media attention around the variant that was first reported in India, we have identified three cases of that on-island over the last couple of days.
“The pubic health investigations are ongoing certainly. At least two of them are associated with travel but there is more work ongoing at the moment.”
The acting Chief Medical Officer Dr Ronan Glynn said officials still don’t know whether the Indian variant will be problematic.
“If you look online at what is being published about this particular variant or other variants, you would be forgiven for thinking that the world was coming to an end,” he said.
“I would be concerned that people looking at some of the coverage of this internationally would feel a real sense of powerlessness.
“Viruses by their nature replicate; by their nature, we will see new variants.”
He was speaking as 403 new COVID-19 cases were announced this evening. No new deaths were reported.
Dr Glynn said infections have “substantially” reduced in recent weeks with the number of patients in critical care now “stabilised.”
Last week saw a 7% reduction in new cases and that followed on from a 22% reduction the week before.
With reporting from Paul O’Donoghue