Hotel quarantine may be reintroduced in response to a new variant emerging from southern Africa.
The World Health Organisation is meeting today to assess the situation and the current available data.
THREAD on the new variant B.1.1.529 summarising what is known from the excellent South African Ministry of Health meeting earlier today
TLDR: So much uncertain but what *is* known is extremely worrying & (in my opinion) we should revise red list immediately.
This is why: 1/16
— Prof. Christina Pagel (@chrischirp) November 25, 2021
It was first identified in Botswana two weeks ago and has since been detected in South Africa, while one case was found in Hong Kong, which was linked to travel.
It's very early days in studying this variant called B1.1.529 - which is expected to be given an official Greek name by the World Health Organisation, and is likely to be given the name 'Nu'.
The variant has a number of mutations, which is concerning scientists.
— Cillian De Gascun (@CillianDeGascun) November 25, 2021
Early indications suggest it may be more transmissible than the Delta variant.
Yesterday, Mike Ryan from the WHO said, "this happens, viruses evolve.
"This is not the end of the world.
"The sky is not falling in.
"There’s 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."
The EU introduced an 'emergency brake' mechanism when it reopened to tourists, so they could act quickly to put in place temporary travel bans quickly if new variants of concerns emerged.
Minister McEntee said that's what the bloc's now looking at introducing for countries where this new variant has been detected.
She stressed officials will work to make Irish citizens will be able to return home if a travel ban is introduced.
She said: "If we need to move quickly here - be it with the introduction of hotel quarantine - then I think that's something we need to do. That would allow people to come home, but it would put that extra layer [of protection in].
"When something like this happens, we've seen how quickly variants travel and move - and the implications that has had. We've learned from this pandemic as time has gone on."
The so-called 'emergency brake' rule would not apply to EU citizens, long-term EU residents, and certain categories of essential travellers.