Delta variant now accounts for half of all new Covid-19 cases in Northern Ireland

Public Health Agency issues warning as total number of cases of variant more than doubles

Approximately half of all new Covid-19 cases in Northern Ireland are now of the Delta variant.

Last week the figure was between 20 to 25 per cent.

The North's Public Health Agency (PHA) said on Wednesday that as of the previous day there had been 612 confirmed or probable cases of the Delta variant in the North – more than twice the total the previous week.

These had been detected in all 11 local council areas.

The PHA said this was not unexpected but showed how quickly the variant was spreading.

Dr Gerry Waldron, head of health protection at the PHA, said the spread of the Delta variant demonstrated the need for "continued vigilance and adherence to the public health guidance – it is essential that people continue to work within the regulations and advice".

“We ask that the public remain vigilant, keep their interactions with others down, continue following the health advice to limit the spread of Covid-19, and engage with the Contact Tracing Service if identified as a confirmed case or a close contact and follow the advice given,” he said.

Enhanced testing has been introduced in areas in the North where a number of probable cases of the Delta variant have been identified.

Asymptomatic people have been asked to get tested in selected, targeted areas, Dr Waldron said.

Such testing has been under way in Omagh, Co Tyrone, and Ballymoney, Co Antrim.

The PHA said that up to Monday, June 21st, 449 people were tested in Omagh and 689 were tested in Ballymoney under this effort.

Early analysis of results shows a total of 31 positive cases of Covid-19 were detected, the health body said.

Mobile clinics

Community mobile vaccination clinics are to be introduced to increase uptake of the Covid-19 vaccines in specific neighbourhoods.

These will involve localised, walk-in clinics which the PHA said would “help address potential barriers to vaccination such as mobility, accessibility and language”.

Health authorities in the North have urged people to come forward for the vaccines and to make sure they have their second doses in order to increase protection against the Delta variant. Last week the North’s chief medical officer Dr Michael McBride warned in relation to the Delta strain that Northern Ireland was in a “race of vaccine against variant”.

A further 188 cases of Covid-19 were confirmed in Northern Ireland in the last 24 hours, according to the latest figures from the North’s Department of Health, released on Wednesday. There were no further deaths from the disease. The number of new Covid-19 cases has risen in Northern Ireland in the last week, with the latest figures showing 1,143 new confirmed cases in the past seven days compared with 786 the week before.

Freya McClements

Freya McClements

Freya McClements is Northern Editor of The Irish Times