Variant Under Investigation VUI B.1.617.2 detected in Northern Ireland

variant detected

The Public Health Agency (PHA) has confirmed that seven cases of the COVID-19 variant under investigation VUI B.1.617.2 (first detected in India) have been detected in Northern Ireland. These are the first confirmed cases of this variant in Northern Ireland and work is ongoing to investigate and assess these cases.

Dr Stephen Bergin, Director of Public Health at the PHA, said: "Identification of a confirmed case or cases of this variant in Northern Ireland was inevitable at some point, and preparations have been in place for such a development.

“Whilst it is a disappointing development, it underpins the need for continued vigilance and adherence to the public health guidance – 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, keep their interactions with others down, continue following the health advice to limit the spread of COVID-19, and engage with the Contact Tracing Service if identified as a confirmed case or a close contact and follow the advice given.

“There is a range of testing sites across Northern Ireland, so if you develop symptoms or are asked to get a test because you are a close contact, please book one as it will help reduce further spread and assist us in identifying any additional VUI cases.”

The current cases have been identified at a number of locations across Northern Ireland, but because of the small numbers involved, it would not be appropriate to identify these. The Contact Tracing Service has been working with the individuals who have tested positive to identity and engage with close contacts and confirm travel history.

Dr Bergin continued: “Whole genome sequencing, the process of determining the entirety, or nearly the entirety, of the DNA sequence of an organism's genome at a single time, is also done on samples from all patients with a confirmed COVID-19 test result here to help identify new variants and understand the transmission of the virus.

“The confirmation of this variant here demonstrates that the PHA surveillance systems and processes within the Contact Tracing Service are working.

“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.

Notes to the editor

Definition of Variant Under Investigation

SARS-CoV-2 variants, if considered to have concerning epidemiological, immunological or pathogenic properties, are raised for formal investigation. At this point they are designated Variant Under Investigation (VUI) with a year, month, and number.