Six more cases of South African variant found while North plans next phase of vaccine rollout

The number of deaths of Covid-19 patients in the State has passed the 3,000 mark, with the reporting of another 90 fatalities on Tuesday.
All but one of the deaths reported by the National Public Health Emergency Team occurred in January. This brings to 3,066 the total number of deaths recorded in the pandemic.
The median age of those whose deaths were reported on Tuesday is 83 years and the age range is 48-99 years.
Nphet also reported 928 confirmed cases of the disease, the lowest daily figure in almost a month. This brings to 189,851, the total number of cases detected in the Republic.
Public health doctors have reported a further six cases of the Covid-19 variant first identified in South Africa, on top of the three already reported. Nphet said these cases were being followed by public health team in line with European guidance.
Of the new cases, 257 were in Dublin, 115 in Cork, 71 in Louth, 53 in Galway and 45 in Limerick with the remaining 387 cases are spread across all other counties.
On Tuesday afternoon, 1,750 Covid-19 patients were hospitalised, down 130 on the previous day. This included 216 patients in ICU, down three. There were 65 additional hospitalisations in the previous 24 hours, the lowest daily figure since January 4th.
Chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan said the decline in daily incidence of Covid-19 had begun but the volume of disease in our communities remained very high.
There have been more cases this month than in 2020 96,000 against 93,500 he pointed out. In the midlands alone, public health doctors have reported 4,000 cases in the first eight months of 2020 and another 4,000 in the first four weeks of 2021.
The downturn in incidence has been achieved through the determination of people across the country to stay at home, to work from home and to avoid meeting and socialising with others. It is imperative that everyone continues to strictly adhere to the public health advice to protect ourselves and our loved ones from this highly-infectious disease.
The 14-day incidence of the disease now stands at 721 cases per 100,000 people nationally. Monaghan has the highest county incidence, followed by Louth.
Meanwhile, everyone aged over 65 should be offered a vaccination within five weeks in Northern Ireland, its Department of Health said.
GP practices and the regional vaccination centres will inoculate members of the public from prioritised groups.
The extension will also cover those who are clinically extremely vulnerable to Covid-19.
The department said: Plans include offering everyone over 65 a vaccine by the end of next month ie within the next five weeks.
Patricia Donnelly, head of the vaccination programme, said: I want to thank everyone for their patience and understanding, as we work through the biggest vaccination programme of our lifetime.
We do not have the available supplies to vaccinate everyone now as much as would like to.
But we will get to you as quickly as we can.
Countries across the world are vying for supplies and, like everyone else around the world, we can only vaccinate people when we have vaccines.
There will inevitably be ongoing frustrations thats unavoidable while stocks are limited.
Please be assured that everyone involved in this programme is working flat out to get this done.
Within the next week, the role of the seven vaccination centres will be expanded to begin vaccinating members of the public.
As GPs focus on the 70 plus age group, the vaccination centres will in parallel offer vaccination appointments to 65-69 year-olds.
These will be bookable online.
The department added: All plans are subject to the availability of vaccine supplies from manufacturers and may therefore be subject to change due to circumstances beyond our control.
To date the delivery schedule has in large part proceeded according to plan.
A further 16 people have died after testing positive for Covid-19 in Northern Ireland.
The department also confirmed another 550 positive cases of the virus on Tuesday.
There are 819 patients with Covid-19 in hospital including 68 in ICU. Additional reporting: PA