Minister for Health "deeply concerned" by new Covid variant
The new variant was first discovered in South Africa and in Hong Kong.
Stephen Donnelly has said he is "deeply concerned" about the possibility of a new Covid variant arriving in Europe.
The Minister for Health shared his worries in a statement released by the Department of Health on Thursday (25 November).
"The Department of Health has, in recent days, been monitoring the emergence of a new variant (B.1.1.529), of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19," they wrote.
"This variant has been identified in a number of countries in southern Africa and in Hong Kong.
"The World Health Organisation (WHO) is meeting tomorrow to further assess the significance of this variant. The WHO has not yet designated this variant as a variant of concern.
"The ECDC (European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control) has reported that it continues to monitor all emerging evidence in relation to this variant.
"The Department is aware of measures taken by the Government of the United Kingdom including the suspension of flights from a number of African countries.
"No cases of this variant have been reported in Europe to date, but the Minister for Health is deeply concerned.
"The Department has been in contact with colleagues in Northern Ireland and we will continue to liaise with UK authorities.
"The Department's advice to the Minister will continue to be informed by relevant guidance emanating from the ECDC and the WHO," they concluded.
President of the EU Commission, Ursula Von Der Leyen, tweeted on Friday (26 November) that there are plans to propose a stop to flights from southern Africa in the coming days.
The @EU_Commission will propose, in close coordination with Member States, to activate the emergency brake to stop air travel from the southern African region due to the variant of concern B.1.1.529.
— Ursula von der Leyen (@vonderleyen) November 26, 2021
"The European Commission will propose, in close coordination with Member States, to activate the emergency brake to stop air travel from the southern African region due to the variant of concern B.1.1.529," she wrote.