Cillian De Gascun said available sequence data has not found the new variant in the Republic of Ireland
The new coronavirus variant circulating in the UK has not been detected in Ireland, according to the director of the National Virus Reference Laboratory.
Cillian De Gascun, who is also a member of the National Public Health Emergency Team, revealed the news in a post on Twitter today.
It came after British Health Secretary Matt Hancock yesterday told the House of Commons that a new variant of coronavirus had been identified in England.
"Initial analysis suggests that this variant is growing faster than the existing variants," he warned.
"We've currently identified over 1,000 cases with this variant predominantly in the south of England, although cases have been identified in nearly 60 different local authority areas."
Dr De Gascun revealed on Twitter that "based on the available sequence data, the novel SarsCoV2 UK variant has not been detected" in Ireland to date.
Based on the available sequence data @nvrlucdireland the novel #SARSCoV2 🦠#UK #variant has not been detected in #Ireland🇮🇪 (ROI) to date. With thanks to colleagues @firefoxx66 @nextstrain @GISAID Highlights importance of #surveillance #HoldFirm #EveryContactCounts #COVID19
— Cillian De Gascun (@CillianDeGascun) December 15, 2020
He said the development highlighted the "importance of surveillance".
Speaking on RTÉ's News At One later, he said that while the UK has been very prompt in sharing the data on the new strain of Covid 19, "there is no evidence at this point in time that the virus should pose a significant concern".
Dr De Gascun confirmed that no case of the new strain of Covid-19 has been identified here or in Northern Ireland and "it was important to reassure people that new strains of a virus emerge all the time".
He said we do not know yet if it's more transmissible than any other virus variant.
There was "no evidence" at this point in time that it causes more severe disease and it was "too early" to say if it will have an impact on vaccine efficacy or on a person's immune response.
The virologist said it was not impossible, but "very unlikely" that a single mutation would knock out the vaccine response.