The Tanaiste says there’s reason for concern, but not reason for panic over the Delta variant.
Leo Varadkar says the strain, first detected in India, will become the dominant strain here while accounting for 20% of new cases in the past week.
On July 5th, there's set to be a further easing of restrictions, which includes the reopening of indoor dining for hospitality for the first time in 2021. Other restrictions which are due to be eased including increasing the number of people allowed to attend a wedding up to 50 from 25.
It comes amid growing concern over an increase in cases of the Delta variant of Covid-19 here, as well as some potential outbreaks of the strain, particularly in Athlone in Westmeath, where people who socialised along the River Shannon on Friday urged to get a Covid-19 test.
“When it comes to the Delta variant, there is definitely reason for concern - not reason for panic at this stage," he said on his way into a Cabinet meeting in Dublin this morning.
Today’s data show a concerning increase in transmission of the Delta variant in Ireland.
We estimate that Delta accounts for up to 20% of cases reported in the last week.
We have also seen a number of outbreaks associated with this variant reported in the last week.
— Dr Tony Holohan (@CMOIreland) June 21, 2021
“We’re still on track to ease restrictions further on July 5th, but we won’t be able to make a decision on that until next Thursday - when we’ve seen more data and have the most up-to-date advice from NPHET.”
He warned the Delta variant is likely to become dominant in Ireland, but it's important to see how that impacts on cases and hospitalisations.
He said that while the strain is currently dominant in the UK, they've been able to keep indoor dining open.
Taoiseach Micheál Martin, meanwhile, said it’s “so far, so good” when it comes to the reopening plan.
He said there has been a “significant increase” in the Delta variant - something that has also been noted by the Chief Medical Officer this week.
However, he said the vaccine rollout is still going well - and next week will be a “very big week” when it comes to vaccination.
He said: “Obviously, with what’s happening across Europe and in the UK, we’ll be keeping a very close eye on the Delta variant.
“We have to take note of the increase in the prevalence of the variant… and people have to be vigilant in their personal behaviour.”
However, he pointed to the “very, very low” incidence rate of the virus in over 65s, as well as declining rates in over 50s.
He said the vaccination programme has been “really impactful”, and there’s now a “race” underway to get as many people vaccinated as quickly as possible.