Northern Ireland records first cases of Omicron variant

All three positive cases have a link to travel from Britain to Northern Ireland

Northern Ireland’s chief medical officer (CMO) Sir Michael McBride said:’This is a development we have been expecting’. Photograph: Brian Lawless/PA Wire

Northern Ireland’s chief medical officer (CMO) Sir Michael McBride said:’This is a development we have been expecting’. Photograph: Brian Lawless/PA Wire

 

The first Omicron variant cases of Covid-19 have been confirmed in Northern Ireland, the Department of Health said on Tuesday.

Three Omicron cases have been confirmed in total, the department said.

Two are from same household in the greater Belfast area and a third unconnected case is in the South Eastern Trust area.

The Department of Health said all three positive cases have a link to travel from Britain to Northern Ireland.

Chief medical officer Sir Michael McBride said: “This is a development we have been expecting and preparing for since we were first made aware of the Omicron variant.”

“Targeted actions by the Public Health Agency — including testing and enhanced contact tracing — are ongoing to investigate and assess these cases. There is no evidence at this time of wider community transmission in Northern Ireland,” he said.

“This is not a time for panic, but for sustained caution. We are awaiting further data on this new variant and the extent of the public health threat it represents.

“It is undoubtedly a cause for concern and has the potential to spread rapidly, adding significantly to the already severe pressures on health and social care services.

“We will continue to liaise closely with public health colleagues across these islands.

“Given the evidence of community transmission of Omicron elsewhere in the Common Travel Area, we would once again advise people to take a Lateral Flow Covid-19 test before travelling to Northern Ireland from England, Scotland, Wales or the Republic of Ireland.”

The chief medical officer urged people to continue following public health advice.

Northern Ireland’s First Minister Paul Givan said he would be meeting representatives from England, Scotland and Wales on Thursday to discuss the approach to the Omicron variant.

He tweeted: “Meeting with Michael Gove, Scottish and Welsh first ministers on Thursday to discuss approach to new Omicron variant.

“As scientists continue to assess its impact, important to reinforce personal responsibility for hygiene, face coverings and I encourage people to get the booster jab.”