LATEST: WHO names new ‘variant of concern’ as over 4,500 new cases of virus confirmed
A further 4,620 people have contracted Covid-19, the Department of Health confirmed this evening.
The number of people in hospital with coronavirus is 571, down 27 since yesterday. Of these, 118 are in intensive care, a drop of eight.
The latest cases were confirmed as the World Health Organization confirmed that the latest Covid-19 variant first identified in South Africa has been classed as a “variant of concern”.
In an update this evening, the WHO said the strain had been given the name ‘Omicron’.
The WHO indicated that preliminary evidence suggests the variant carries higher risk of reinfection than other variants of concern.
“Based on the evidence presented indicative of a detrimental change in Covid-19 epidemiology … the WHO has designated B.1.1.529 as a variant of concern, named Omicron,” the UN health agency said in a statement.