The first confirmed cases of the Covid-19 variant first detected in South Africa have been recorded in Northern Ireland, Health Minister Robin Swann said.

Mr Swann said three cases of the variant had been confirmed.

The minister said a detailed health protection risk assessment and contact tracing response had been deployed and the risk of transmission has been judged to be low at this time.

"I have previously been clear that identification of a confirmed case or cases of this variant in Northern Ireland was inevitable at some point," said Mr Swann.

"This development does not mean that this variant is going to become the most prevalent or the dominant strain in Northern Ireland.

"However, it does underline once again the very real need for continuing caution in relation to Covid-19." 


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It comes as Northern Ireland's Department of Health reported five further coronavirus deaths, taking the official death toll to 2,041.

It also reported that 225 new cases of Covid-19 have been identified from tests on 1,841 individuals.

There are 376 confirmed coronavirus patients in hospital, with 48 in ICU, 39 of whom are on ventilators.

The average seven-day infection rate per 100,000 for Northern Ireland is 102.5, the lowest it has been since 29 September.

The area with the highest rate remains Mid Ulster on 159.3, while the lowest remains Fermanagh and Omagh on 41.9.

Seven of Northern Ireland's 11 council areas now have a seven-day infection rate below 100 per 100,000.