Leading virologist says UK strain only accounts for 10% of cases in Ireland

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Ireland’s leading virologist has confirmed that the more infectious UK strain of COVID-19 only accounts for around 10% of cases in Ireland.

The analysis was shared by Dr Cillian De Gascun, Medical Virologist and Director of the National Virus Reference Laboratory, late last night.

It follows statements at Thursday’s NPHET briefing that said the latest lockdown is a result of socialising and too many close contacts rather than the new strain.

And it is in contrast with the claims made by Taoiseach Micheal Martin during his lockdown announcement that the third wave of COVID-19 in Ireland is more aggressive and infectious because of the strain.

Dr De Gascun said last night: “Further testing this week of SARSCoV2 samples dating from December 23rd to 29th has detected 9 additional UK variant cases in Ireland. This brings the total number of cases identified to 16 (of 169 tested to date).

“As a random, albeit small, selection of cases primarily from the community, these data would suggest that the SARSCoV2 UK variant – at a proportion of <10% – is not responsible for the recent significant & concerning increase in SARSCoV2 case numbers.”

There were 1,754 cases of COVID-19 confirmed yesterday, with 11 further deaths.

But NHPET warned that due to delayed confirmation of positive tests, around 9,000 new cases are to be announced in the coming days.

The delay is due to issues with processing the tests in labs and confirming the new cases over duplicates and other reasons for positive tests.

On Thursday, NPHET warned that the system in place was not created with such a high caseload of tests in mind.

Dr Tony Holohan, Chief Medical Officer, Department of Health said yesterday: “The most concerning trend at present is the rapidly increasing number of people being admitted to hospital – we are now admitting between 50 – 70 people a day to our hospital system. Unfortunately, we expect this to get worse before it gets better. Our health system will not continue to cope with this level of impact.

“We have also seen a significant increase in positive laboratory tests in recent days reflecting a true increase in the incidence of the disease as well as the delay in people coming forward for testing over the Christmas period. As our systems catch up with these effects it places significant pressure on our reporting system.

“We have always understood that numbers of positive tests or confirmed cases would be a less reliable indicator over the Christmas period. This is typical of infectious disease reporting annually over the two weeks of Christmas and New Year.

“What is clear are the measures that the Government has now mandated and the behaviours that we as individuals need to observe. Everyone needs to stay at home other than for essential work or care.”

Source: Dublin News