Indian variant - PHA not sharing information concerning confirmed cases of B.1.617.2 in Northern Ireland
There are now approximately 20 confirmed cases of the Indian Covid-`19 variant in Northern Ireland.
We have repeatedly asked the Public Health Agency (PHA) to provide clarity on what we believe to be several important issues which are as follows: had any of the people who tested positive for the Indian Covid variant already been vaccinated?; have any of the people to test positive for the Indian variant had Covid-19 in the past?; have any of the individuals who have tested positive for the B.1.617.2 in Northern Ireland been hospitalised? and finally, have any of those to test positive for the B.1.617.2 Indian variant died?
In our most recent exchange with the PHA not only did it not answer any of our questions but it did not offer an explanation as to why it would not share the information.
"The agency will not be giving specific information on the small number of cases currently identified," said a PHA spokesperson.
"If the agency assesses as things progress that it is necessary to take further actions, this will be fully communicated."
The spokesperson added: "The emergence of new strains is fully anticipated and the agency is prepared for dealing with this.
"The advice to the public remains the same - stick to guidelines and regulations and get vaccinated when eligible. If the agency assesses that it is necessary to take further actions as things progress, this will be fully communicated."
The Indian variant, which is officially referred to as B.1.617, is thought to be 50 per cent more transmissible than UK/Kent variant which swept through Northern Ireland earlier this year.
B.1.617 is of such a concern that Prime Minister Boris Johnson has insisted it could force him to reintroduce localised lockdowns and it could also cast doubt on whether England will be able to fully reopen on June 21.
First Minister, Arlene Foster, told MLAs on Tuesday that the spread of the Indian variant in Great Britain was of concern to the Northern Ireland Executive but explained there was no evidence of community transmission in Northern Ireland.
PHE variant data can be found at www.gov.uk/government/publications/covid-19-variants-genomically-confirmed-case-numbers/variants-distribution-of-cases-data---
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