The first cases of a new Covid-19 variant of concern have been detected in the Republic.

Two cases of BA.4, a sublineage of the currently dominant Omicron Covid-19 variant, were detected earlier this month, according to chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan.

No cases of a related sublineage, BA.5, have as yet been identified here, he says in his latest weekly report on the pandemic.

BA.4 and BA.5 were designated variants of concern by the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) earlier this month. 

In the UK, 115 cases of BA.4 and 80 cases of BA.5 have been detected. In Portugal, the two strains have been linked to a recent resurgence of cases there.

Dr Holohan says the two strains have a growth advantage most likely because they can evade immunity provided by prior infection and vaccination, particularly as this wanes over time.

Scientists expect BA.4 and BA.5 will eventually replace the BA.2 sublineage that is dominant in Europe at present.

However, there is no indication they are any more severe than previous Omicron lineages.

The ECDC has warned that they may cause increased virus transmission in Europe in the near future.

Dr Holohan, in his May 13th report, says the overall epidemiological situation in Ireland remains broadly positive, “albeit we will need to continue to monitor developments with emerging variants over the coming weeks”.

 

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