IRELAND IS experiencing a rise in the number of cases of the Delta variant of Covid-19, experts have warned.
The variant, first identified in India, is believed to be 60% more transmissible than the B117 UK variant which become Ireland's dominant strain and caused a devastating third wave following Christmas 2020.
The Delta strain is dominant in Britain, and has resulted in the planned 21 June 'freedom day' to be pushed back to at least 19 July.
Ireland had initially seemed to have the variant under control, but Chief Medical Officer Dr Tony Holohan yesterday warned that there is "a concerning increase in transmission" of the variant in the Republic.
The warning comes as a further 284 new cases of Covid-19 were reported across Ireland, and while numbers are still relatively low, the variant could cause an explosion in cases, as seen in the UK.
As of midnight on Sunday, 53 people were in hospital with the disease, with 13 being treated in intensive care units.
Speaking at a press conference yesterday, Dr Holohan said "a number of outbreaks" across Ireland are being attributed to the Delta variant.
"In the UK, Delta has been the dominant strain of Covid-19 for a number of weeks and now they are beginning to experience a rise in hospitalisations.
“It is really important that people who are not fully vaccinated continue to follow all public health advice.
“This includes people who are waiting for their second dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine.
“People should take a vaccine when it is offered to them and in the meantime they should continue to avoid crowds, limit contacts, avoid meeting up indoors and work from home where possible.”
Writing on social media, the Chief Medical Officer added: "We estimate that Delta accounts for up to 20% of cases reported in the last week".
The UK is experiencing a rise in cases, with over 10,000 identified every day for the past three days, but as the vaccine is being offered to everyone over the age of 18, hospitalisations and deaths remain low.
In Ireland however, the vaccine is currently being offered only to those aged 40 and over.
It is anticipated that all adults in Ireland will be fully vaccinated by the end of September if supplies arrive as anticipated.