All passengers who returned to Ireland from Brazil in the past 14 days are being told to self-isolate for two weeks since their arrival date as well as undergo a Covid-19 test, following the emergence of a new variant of the virus.

The Department of Health said the passenger locator form is being used to make contact with those who have returned here from the South American country in the last fortnight, advising them to self-isolate and contact their GP to arrange a swab.

The Head of the National Virus Reference Labratory, Dr Cillian DeGascun, said this was a more targeted approach than a travel ban as there are no direct flights between Ireland and Brazil.

He said the variant has not been detected here but there is a significant Brazilian population in Ireland that may have resulted in travel between the two countries over the holiday period. 

Chief Medical Officer Dr Tony Holohan confirmed: "New variants of Covid-19 have recently been identified in Brazil, and in travellers to Japan from Brazil. There is no evidence of these variants in Ireland." 

It comes as 50 more people who were diagnosed with Covid-19 died and 3,498 new cases of coronavirus were identified.

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Dr Holohan said in a statement: "It is essential that anyone arriving from Brazil self-isolate for 14 days from the date of arrival before entering or re-entering the workplace.

"We are particularly appealing to employers to enable their employees to protect each other by staying at home for the full 14 days.

"Anyone who has travelled from Brazil in the last 14 days is advised to self-isolate for 14 days, from the date of arrival, and identify themselves, through a GP, for testing as soon as possible." 

He added: "Further risk assessment of the new variants is expected from the European Centre for Disease Control in the coming week.

"We must all continue to adhere to every element of the public health advice. This remains our best defence against Covid-19."