New variant of COVID-19 present in Ireland – preliminary data

DUBLIN, Dec 23 (Reuters) – Irish health chiefs believe a new variant of the coronavirus found in neighboring Britain is present in Ireland, but is not solely responsible for the rapid spread of the disease.

The likely presence of a more infectious variant is based on preliminary data from selected samples from last weekend, the National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET) said in a statement.

The number of people in Ireland infected with someone who has COVID-19 – the so-called reproduction number – has risen to 1.5 to 1.8, the highest level since March. NPHET also gave the government new vague recommendations, a day after ministers significantly tightened restrictions on COVID-19. (Padraic Halpin Editing Report by Mark Heinrich)