Omicron variant Ireland: Six cases confirmed, one clear indication of how bad it is and restrictions update

There are now six Omicron cases in Ireland with more restrictions brought in for travel on Thursday night.

Data from South Africa has been coming in over the last week which suggests that the new strain is not as severe as previous variants.

But experts are stressing that it is too early to make any final judgement as to how exactly it will behave amongst the population.

On Thursday, Chief Medical Officer Tony Holohan said “a number of probable cases are under investigation.”

He explained that although there is much uncertainty around the new strain, they are confident the booster will protect people against it.

Here’s all we know about the virus at the moment;

How bad is the Omicron variant?

The World Health Organisation’s Emergencies Director, Michael Ryan said: “The preliminary data doesn’t indicate that this [Omicron] is more severe.

“In fact, if anything, the direction is towards less severity.”

Professor Christine Loscher told RTE’s Prime Time that the data so far is good – however, people can be reinfected if they had another strain of the virus already.

The DCU Professor said: “The WHO came out and said that the information we have at the moment is that the variant may be milder so the symptoms may be milder and people are potentially not going to get severely ill.

“The other piece of information is that it looks like it probably is more transmissible than Delta, but that is just looking at the data coming from South Africa.

A test sample tube labelled 'Omicron SARS-CoV-2'.
A test sample tube labelled ‘Omicron SARS-CoV-2’.

“We also need to keep in mind that the data from South Africa is it’s behaviour in a largely unvaccinated population and we don’t know quite yet how it’s going to behave in a highly vaccinated population like Ireland.

“Although we are looking at reinfection of those who had a different Covid infection and also breakthrough infections with vaccines.”

Will it trigger more restrictions?

When asked if he can rule out more restrictions before Christmas, the Taoiseach said “I can’t say that,” adding “we have to follow what is happening in respect of Omicron.”

Mr Martin repeatedly expressed concern about the Omicron variant and said the “booster [vaccine] is the primary weapon we have in terms of protecting ourselves against Covid and Covid levels are still high.”

He said: “It’s challenging but the early signs are that we are looking at a more infectious variant that may not, but the jury is well out on this, may not be as damaging from a disease perspective.

“We await more consolidated scientific advice on how severe an impact Omicron will have on people’s health in terms of admission to hospital and ICU.

“To me it seems the primary weapon we have against Omicron which we’re all worried about in terms of its growth, its potential and it’s our greatest primary protection against disease and severe illness.

“If you take the booster, you reduce very significant chances of ending up in hospital or in ICU.

“The booster does work, it can work within days in your protection against Delta and now we know Omicron.”

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