Ireland is studying more than 10 suspected cases of the new Omicron coronavirus variant after initial tests showed they had a trait distinguishing it from the dominant Delta variant, Health Minister Stephen Donnelly says.
Unlike Delta, which has dominated infections worldwide this year, Omicron has a mutation known as the S-gene drop-out, which means that PCR tests can give a clue to the presence of the new variant.
Donnelly said the suspected cases had been sent for full genomic sequencing but that it is likely officials will be confirming Omicron infections in the coming days.
"It's not possible to know how many cases there may be here. The number that were sent for whole genome sequencing is a little over 10, that's based on a sample of positive cases that would have this particular type of test," Donnelly told Ireland's Virgin Media News.
Ireland has told residents to avoid non-essential travel to seven southern African countries due to concerns over Omicron and may restart a mandatory hotel quarantine regime in a bid to slow any spread.
Australian Associated Press