A Covid-19 outbreak in Athlone has been identified as "probably" the Delta variant, the Director of Public Health, HSE Midlands has said.

Dr Una Fallon said it became apparent over the weekend that there was a cluster of cases associated with socialising by the River Shannon on Friday 11 June.

Speaking on RTÉ's Morning Ireland, Dr Fallon said this was not necessarily unusual, but that public health experts had been investigating a travel-related incident and were screening for the Delta variant.

As a result, some of the cases belonging to the 11 June gathering were sent for Delta screening as well.

Dr Fallon said there are 14 primary cases and that each of these cases has further links in the community, such as home and work places.

Dr Fallon said it cannot be claimed that the cases originated as a result of outdoor transmission because people travelled there together, and they also have information that there were some house parties in the area on the same night.

However, she added, outbreaks like these extend and "their tentacles stretch far and wide".

She urged anyone with minor symptoms not to go to work or other potentially super spreading events, such as funerals or parties.

Dr Fallon said anyone who was at the gathering on 11 June should get tested and this can be booked on the HSE portal or by attending the pop-up centre at St Aloysius College in Athlone between 24 and 26 June.

So far, she said, hospitalisations have not increased.

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In Northern Ireland 187 new cases of Covid-19 have been reported today by the Department of Health. That is the highest daily case total for over three months.

There were no further coronavirus deaths recorded during past 24 hours. There are 13 confirmed Covid patients in hospital, none in ICU.

Further advice on Delta variant due from NPHET next week

Taoiseach Micheál Martin said the Government will take further advice next week from the National Public Health Emergency Team in relation to the Delta variant and the further reopening of the country, including the scheduled reopening of indoor service in restaurants and pubs on 5 July.

Speaking on his way into Cabinet this morning, Mr Martin said there has been a significant increase in incidences of the variant in Ireland and that Government and health officials are keeping "a close eye" on it.

He said while the rise of the Delta variant is a concern and similar to what is happening across Europe, the situation with Covid-19 is positive at the moment with the disease declining in Ireland.

Mr Martin said next week is a very big week for vaccinations and he appealed people to take a second dose of the vaccine when offered it.

Also speaking on his way into Cabinet, Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly said Ireland is doing "very well" and is making steady progress with regard to Covid-19.

He said cases in Limerick are "high but stable" and what is "particularly positive" is that Covid cases in Dublin are coming down.

However, Mr Donnelly said, the "caveat to all of that is the Delta variant", which has to be taken very seriously due to how transmissible it is.

The Delta variant accounted for up to 20% of all new coronavirus infections reported in Ireland last week.

Tánaiste Leo Varadkar has said there is "definitely reason for concern" when it comes to the Delta variant.

However, speaking on his way into Cabinet, Mr Varadkar said there is no reason to panic at this stage and that the Government is still on track to further ease restrictions on 5 July but there would not be a final decision until next Thursday when more data is available.

He also said the Delta variant will become the dominant Covid-19 variant in Ireland.

The Cabinet has agreed to purchase nearly 3m Moderna and Janssen vaccines for use next year.

The Minister for Health requested approval to buy 1.8 million doses of Moderna and 1.1 million Janssen for delivery in 2022.

Those figures are in addition to 4.9 million Pfizer already purchased for 2022 and a further 4.9 million for 2023.

Meanwhile, NPHET has told the Minister for Health that the next provisional date for it to meet is Thursday 1 July.

NPHET said this meeting will focus primarily on the epidemiological readiness to progress the planned easing of public health measures.

It will also review current advice, including social distancing and mask wearing requirements, and advice in relation to a return to workplaces.

Registration for a Covid-19 vaccine opened to people aged 37 today.

Over the next two weeks, the Health Service Executive is expecting delivery of 320,000 doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.

Additional reporting Micheál Lehane, Fergal Bowers