A special HSE helpline urgently needs to be set up to provide information and support to Irish citizens impacted by the new Covid-19 variant, a Fine Gael TD has said.
Deputy Colm Burke, Fine Gael Spokesperson on Health and Member of the Oireachtas Health Committee said: “Omicron, the new Covid virus variant, is a real and present danger to the whole world. The new variant already has a foothold in many countries, including in the UK where a small number of cases have been identified so far. More cases are inevitable. It is possible, even likely, that the variant may have arrived in Ireland.
“There is now an urgent need for the HSE, in co-operation with other government agencies and the airlines, to identify anyone who has come to Ireland from southern Africa in the past two weeks. They must be given appropriate health advice on testing and isolating and other relevant support so that we can counteract this new Covid variant.
“There is medical evidence from South Africa, including from the GP, Dr. Angelique Coetzee, who first noticed this variant, that the symptoms of Omicron are different from the Delta variant. Scientists and doctors in South Africa deserve praise and credit for identifying the new variant and making that information available to the international community at the earliest possible opportunity.
“There are many Irish people in South Africa now including many sportspeople – Munster Rugby, Ireland’s Women Cricket team and several golfers. They and their support teams and travelling fans, and all other Irish people wishing to return to Ireland, must be given maximum support to return safely and they must take all appropriate health safety measures on their return.
“A HSE helpline providing timely information and advice to people impacted would help us slow the spread of the new variant and allow doctors and scientists to assess its impact.
“A combination of vaccines, timely advice and information, effective public health measures and personal responsibility are all required in the ongoing effort to control Covid and all its variants. A high level of social solidarity will be required in the weeks and months ahead. We will need to watch out for and support each other through these difficult times,” concluded Deputy Burke.