Variant Under Investigation VUI-21OCT-01 detected in Northern Ireland
The Public Health Agency (PHA) has confirmed that 125 cases of the COVID-19 Variant Under Investigation VUI-21OCT-01 also known as AY.4.2 and ‘Delta plus’, have been detected in Northern Ireland (confirmed and probable cases as of 27 October 2021).
The new strain, which is a mutation of the existing Delta variant, has been found in at least 42 countries, according to a WHO epidemiological update, including other jurisdictions in the UK, the Republic of Ireland, India and the United States.
The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA), formerly Public Health England, has designated it a "Variant Under Investigation", but it is not currently deemed to be a variant of interest or concern.
Dr Brid Farrell, Deputy Director of Public Health at the PHA, said: “While evidence is still emerging, so far it does not appear this variant causes more severe disease or renders the vaccines currently deployed any less effective.
“Identification of a case or cases of this variant in Northern Ireland was inevitable at some point, particularly as society has opened up in recent months and most restrictions have been lifted. Our genome sequencing capabilities are also ahead of those of most other countries so it is not surprising that the UK has identified cases.
“This development underpins the need for continued vigilance and adherence to the public health guidance for COVID-19 – currently there are no additional measures that the public need to take on the back of this, but it is essential that people continue to work within the regulations and advice.
"We ask that the public remain vigilant, continue to exercise caution. Wear a mask and maintain appropriate distance when required, when meeting people indoors, open windows and doors to ventilate the room.
“Vaccine uptake is also an important means of securing protection against COVID-19 infection. The coming weeks will be very busy, with a significant escalation of the booster programme, along with the school-based programme and the ongoing provision of first and second doses. We would appeal to everyone to get vaccinated if you are eligible. The significant benefits of vaccination are clear. It protects you and those close to you.
“The emergence of new strains is fully anticipated and the Public Health Agency is prepared for dealing with this. If the agency assesses as things progress that it is necessary to take further actions, this will be fully communicated.
“Remember the best way to stop variants developing or spreading is to keep pushing down infection rates and transmission of the virus in our community. By sticking to public health advice, working within the regulations, getting vaccinated when eligible, and avoiding becoming complacent, we can all play a role in tackling COVID-19.”
The UKHSA publishes data on distribution of variants on a weekly basis, which include Northern Ireland data. The variant data can be found at www.gov.uk/government/publications/covid-19-variants-genomically-confirmed-case-numbers/variants-distribution-of-cases-data