The new variant of Covid-19, commonly known as Eris, is now accounting for half of the cases found in hospital and healthcare settings.
Community transmission of Covid is reported to be on the rise, and cases in hospitals have increased. Speaking on RTÉ's Today with Claire Byrne programme, Professor of Immunology Christine Loscher said the Eris variant is not dominant in the community.
Professor Loscher said Eris is a further mutation of the virus and is different to the variants we have seen so far. It is still in the Omicron family, but it has more mutations. "Those mutations that we have seen over the evolution of the virus is that usually when mutations occur in a subvariant that then establishes in the population, it is because those mutations give it increased transmissibility and more vaccine or immune evasiveness which means it is better at transmitting and it is better at avoiding the antibody and t-cell immunity that we have built up from vaccines and prior infections," she said.
Prof Loscher added that it is difficult to get a grasp on numbers to compare them with last year, as we do not have mass PCR testing, with many people doing antigen testing, and many not reporting infections. "We are probably only seeing between PCR and antigen testing 600-700 cases a day, but I think we are fairly sure that it is multiples of that, so we know it is quite high in the community." While hospital cases are at around 400, she said it did increase last month and has "stayed steady around that number", but now it is contributing to outbreaks in the hospital. "That’s a huge concern in terms of containment of infection in hospital, it is also a huge concern in terms of the knock-on effect for elective surgeries, people going