Health officials in Ireland, where a more infectious variant of the coronavirus first discovered in England has increased, said on Saturday they believed three cases of another new variant found in South Africa had been contained.
Ireland is grappling with a Covid-19 surge that topped the first wave last year. He confirmed the first cases of the most contagious variant discovered in South Africa on Friday in people who had traveled to Ireland from South Africa during the Christmas holidays.
Ireland has reported an increasing presence of the variant first found in England. It was detected in 25% of positive cases who underwent additional testing in the week to Jan.3, up from 9% just two weeks earlier.
“The UK variant is of concern to us no longer just because of the amount of virus that is on the island, and we know it spreads in the community,” said Cillian De Gascun, head of the Irish National Virus Lab, on the national television channel RTE.
“The good thing about the South African variant is that we know exactly where these cases are coming from, they have been contained, checked and contacts have been traced, and to my knowledge there has been no subsequent transmission.
The government on Wednesday announced its toughest lockdown measures since the start of last year, warning that a ‘tsunami’ of infections fueled by the UK variant and easing of brakes before Christmas could overwhelm the healthcare system .
The number of patients in Irish hospitals with Covid-19 rose 12% in the space of 24 hours on Saturday to 1,285, after surpassing in recent days the peak of 881 established during the first wave of infections.
Another 14 patients were admitted to intensive care units, bringing the total number of intensive care patients to 119 and left only 27 of the 284 intensive care beds in public hospitals across the country empty.
These hospitals can safely increase intensive care capacity to 375, the head of the Irish health service (HSE) said this week. The HSE has also reached an agreement to support intensive care beds in private hospitals for Covid-19 admissions.