The leaders of the three Coalition parties are due to meet the National Public Health Emergency Team tomorrow to discuss the Omicron variant and the wider Covid situation.

It is understood NPHET will meet tomorrow afternoon and assess guidance from its Epidemiological Team which has been monitoring the variant situation across Europe this weekend.

The Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly has been in contact with a number of key officials and ministers today.

The Minister for Transport and Green Party leader Eamon Ryan also had a phone conversation with the Chief Medical Officer Dr Tony Holohan.

The Cabinet is due to hold its weekly meeting on Tuesday, however no sub committee on Covid meeting has been slated for tomorrow night.

The move comes as the Department of Health was notified of 3,735 new cases of Covid-19 today.

There are 566 patients with Covid in hospitals, up 30 since yesterday. Of those in hospital, there are 117 patients receiving treatment in intensive care units, a decrease of one from yesterday.

Dr Holohan said that while much attention was on new variants, incidence of the delta variant in Ireland "remains too high with widespread infection in the community".

"The NPHET Epidemiological Surveillance Team continue to meet this weekend to monitor the situation in relation to the new variant and regulations are being drawn up to give effect to the new travel and home quarantine policies."

Earlier today, a leading immunology professor said that it is not inevitable that the new Omicron variant of Covid-19 will be more contagious or cause more severe illness in people, with the variant "warranting caution but not panic".

NUI Maynooth Professor of Immunology Paul Moynagh said that the new variant "warrants caution and attention, but not panic," adding that studies in the coming weeks will provide a clearer picture of its impact.

Speaking on RTÉ's This Week programme, Prof Moynagh said the two main issue of concern around the variant were how quickly it became dominant in parts of South Africa, and some mutations of the variant being associated with evading immunity.

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"There's two things that are causing us concern here ... one is that we're seeing a lot of mutations in the spike protein.

"These have been identified previously in other variants but we're seeing a lot of them coming together, we don't tend to see that, and some of these mutations have been associated with increased transmission, and others with some evasion from immunity.

"The other concerning factor is for this mutant, in certain parts of South Africa, it has very quickly become the dominant variant, so that might suggest it's more transmissible.

"But we need to be aware of the fact that South Africa has just come off a Delta wave, so we don't know how this will compete in an environment where Delta transmission is high like in Ireland.

He also said South Africa's low vaccination rate needs to be noted, and so the variant's impact has yet to be seen in a place like Ireland which has such a high vaccination rate.


Read more: Latest Covid-19 stories


Meanwhile, Mr Ryan said it is not yet known if the Omicron variant is present in Ireland.

Speaking on RTÉ's The Week In Politics, the Green Party leader said: "We do a lot of testing and it hasn't been picked up yet, as far as I understand."

Mr Ryan said it will take two to three weeks before scientists can tell if Omicron increases transmission, increases illness, or if it can it get around vaccines.

He said what can be done now is for people to "double down" on the existing public health advice.

Mr Ryan said he was in touch with Dr Holohan this morning about the developing Omicron situation.

However, he added "there's still 5,000 people a day getting infected in our country" and therefore Omicron "shouldn't distract us from the basic things that we have been doing well to get those numbers down".

A number of walk-in Covid-19 vaccine clinics remain in operation today, with walk-in booster clinics operating for healthcare workers and those in their 60s.

Yesterday, the HSE issued an apology to people who were left waiting for several hours to receive a Covid-19 vaccine at its Citywest vaccination centre. People faced a similar long wait for a jab at the clinic today.

Meanwhile, the Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney has welcomed confirmation that new travel measures taken by the UK against the Omicron variant will not apply to the Common Travel Area.

New tougher measures including PCR testing will be introduced for arrivals to the UK from Tuesday morning.

However, this will not apply to the common travel area, which covers travel between Britain, the island of Ireland, the Isle of Man and the Channel Islands.

The World Health Organisation has said one of the reasons it highlighted the Omicron variant as one of concern was to put countries on alert.

Speaking on RTÉ's This Week programme, Dr Margaret Harris said that countries "are taking the actions we have asked them to do," adding that South Africa has been "extraordinary" in not only sharing data promptly about the variant, but that it continues to do so.

Dr Harris said it was still early days, and that in the coming days there will be more known about the characteristics of Omicron.

She said when information moves quickly there is a sense of it creating panic, but that people should not be afraid.

"People may interpret it as a negative but the fact that countries are reporting and saying what is going on, that is really good," said Dr Harris.