Delta variant data must be taken ‘very seriously’, Donnelly says

Minister envisages reduced role for mandatory hotel quarantine from July 19th

Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly: “Any serious publication, which the Lancet is, that raises the possibility of vaccine escape has to be taken very seriously.” Photograph:  Brian Lawless/PA

Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly: “Any serious publication, which the Lancet is, that raises the possibility of vaccine escape has to be taken very seriously.” Photograph: Brian Lawless/PA

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Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly has said new data on the potential for so-called vaccine escape associated with the Delta or Indian variant of Covid-19 has to be taken “very seriously”.

A study published this week in medical journal the Lancet suggested there could be reduced vaccine efficacy associated with the variant.

Mr Donnelly – who is to receive his first vaccine today – said there was not currently consideration being given to revisiting plans to reopen the country due to the presence of variants of concern.

However, he said: “I think we have to take it very seriously.

Three million doses

“The latest I have as of this week is that the Delta variant is approximately 1.4 per cent of cases here, so it’s low, but we need to keep our eye on this very carefully. Any serious publication, which the Lancet is, that raises the possibility of vaccine escape has to be taken very seriously.”

He said he expected Ireland to mark three million doses of vaccine delivered this weekend, with some 75,000 to be administered across the Bank Holiday period.

‘Global vaccinations’

Mr Donnelly also said he envisaged a diminished role for mandatory hotel quarantine (MHQ) once the EU digital green cert was adopted on July 19th.

The MHQ system was renewed last week, but he said it would converge with the new system and there would be a “more limited role for it”.

“We will fit our existing system in the new system and by virtue of global vaccinations, there should be less and less of a role for it.”

He said work was being done on what legislative and regulatory changes would be needed to merge the two systems.