Colombia 'Mu' variant detected in Northern Ireland - strain showing signs of immune escape
Two cases of the 'Mu' Covid-19 variant have been detected in Northern Ireland, according to Public Health England (PHE).
On Monday August 30, the World Health Organisation (WHO) declared the 'Mu' variant, which is officially known as B.1.621, a variant of interest (VOI) after it was detected in 39 countries.
The 'Mu' variant was first detected in Colombia in January 2021 however, it has since been found in the United Kingdom, Republic of Ireland, USA, Austria, Switzerland, Italy, Chile, Belgium and Spain.
The PHE classified B.1.621 as a variant under investigation in July.
The most recent PHE data shows 53 cases of B.1.621 have so far been detected in the United Kingdom - England - 46; Scotland - 3; Northern Ireland - 2 and Wales - 1.
Announcing its decision to declare the 'Mu' variant a VOI, the WHO said: "The Mu variant has a constellation of mutations that indicate potential properties of immune escape."
This means Covid-19 vaccines could potentially be less effective against the 'Mu' variant however more studies must take place before experts can confirm this.
"Preliminary data presented to the Virus Evolution Working Group show a reduction in neutralization capacity of convalescent and vaccine sera similar to that seen for the Beta variant, but this needs to be confirmed by further studies," the WHO this week.
There have been four cases of B.1.621 in the Republic of Ireland.
Latest Covid-19 stats
The Department of Health (DoH) recorded an additional nine Covid-19 related deaths within the last 24 hours (eight occurring within said timeframe, one occurring outside).
It takes the total number of Covid-19 related deaths in Northern Ireland to 2,394.
One of the nine deaths recorded by DoH in the last 24 hours was a patient aged between 40 and 59.
The remaining eight individuals were either aged 60-79 (six) or 80 (two) or older.
The DoH also recorded a further 1,248 new infections in the last 24 hours.
The total number of people to test positive for Covid-19 in the last seven days and since the beginning of the pandemic in Northern Ireland is 8,952 and 204,173 respectively.