Seven confirmed cases of the Covid-19 variant which was first detected in India have been reported in Northern Ireland, the Department of Health has said.

Chief Medical Officer Dr Michael McBride said a detailed health protection risk assessment would be carried out along with contact tracing.

"This news is not entirely unexpected and plans are in place for such an eventuality," he said.

"While preventative measures - including travel restrictions - are very important, the assessment is that these will delay rather than permanently prevent the spread of variants already detected elsewhere on these islands."

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Dr McBride added: "Confirmation of these cases does not mean this variant is going to become the most prevalent or the dominant strain in Northern Ireland.

"It does, however, highlight why caution is still essential in relation to Covid-19.

"The most effective way to stop variants developing or spreading is to keep pushing down infection rates and transmission of the virus in our community.

"All variants spread in the same way. We protect ourselves and others by following public health advice and getting vaccinated when our turn comes.

"Social distancing and limiting the number of contacts we have are still vitally important.

"So too are wearing a face covering and washing hands well and often. Also, please always remember the particular risks from indoor settings, especially those that are crowded and have poor ventilation."

Meanwhile, the Department of Health reported no further deaths of patients who had previously tested positive for Covid-19 in Northern Ireland.

It said there had been an additional 102 cases of the virus confirmed in the last 24-hour reporting period.

There were 67 Covid-19 positive inpatients in hospital, of whom seven were in intensive care.

The average 7-day infection rate per 100,000 is 33.3.

The area with the highest rate remains Derry and Strabane 94.2, while the lowest remains Ards and North Down on 3.7.

On the vaccination front, a total of 1,416,826 doses have been administered in Northern Ireland up to 11.45am this morning.

Of those, 957,063 are first doses, while 459,763 people have also received their second jab.