Ryan says Omicron variant is most likely ‘across Europe’

Minister says impact of the new variant is unlikely to be clear for a couple of weeks

Minister for Transport Eamon Ryan said there was a need to ‘double down’ on existing measures to tackle Covid. Photograph: Alan Betson/The Irish Times

Minister for Transport Eamon Ryan said there was a need to ‘double down’ on existing measures to tackle Covid. Photograph: Alan Betson/The Irish Times

 

The Omicron variant, Green Party leader and Minister for Transport Eamon Ryan said, is “across Europe, it seems”.

Speaking to RTÉ’s The Week in Politics programme, he said Ireland is doing “a lot of testing” but has not picked up the new variant yet.

“We won’t know the real impact of this for a number of weeks. It will take two- three weeks to see, well, does it increase transmissibility, does it increase illness or can it get around vaccines,” he said.

In the meantime, Mr Ryan said there was a need to “double down” on existing measures to tackle the Delta wave currently sweeping across the country and through the hospital system.

However, he added that “it does look like the vaccines will still give us protection and that’s a really important message”

Pointing to measures introduced on Friday mandating those arriving from eight southern African countries, he said they were the “right measures, they were put in straightaway and now we work with our health authorities to see what additional measures might have to be done”

“That hasn’t gone away, there’s still 5,000 people a day getting infected in our country so it shouldn’t distract us from the basic things we have been doing well to get the numbers down,” he said, adding that there were encouraging signs that the situation in hospitals is stabalising. He backed comments from the Taoiseach, Micheál Martin, who said that any lockdown of children’s’ activities should be temporary.

The Nphet has advised curtailing such activities for a two- week period, which will be considered by cabinet on Tuesday.

Mr Ryan said these measures had to be temporary.

“We also have to be conscious of the need for our children to learn by play and through day-to-day contact. Their recommendation for that was for a very specific recent spike in the numbers in that age group”.

He said the Government has been “pushing full tilt” to get vaccination numbers up.