A further 8,248 coronavirus cases have been confirmed this evening - the highest daily figure since the pandemic began.
A further 20 virus-deaths have also been anounced.
It takes the death toll in Ireland to 2,327 and the total number of cases to 135,884.
This afternoon, there were 1,180 COVID-19 patients in Irish hospitals with 109 in intensive care.
The 14-day rate of the virus in Ireland now stands at 1087.7 cases per 100,000 people.
The seven-day incidence is 889.4 while the five-day moving average is 6,800.
The Chief Medical Officer Dr Tony Holohan said the South African variant of the virus has now been detected in Ireland for the first time.
“Three cases of a new variant of COVID-19 recently identified in South Africa have been confirmed in Ireland today by whole genome sequencing,” he said.
“All of the cases identified are directly associated with recent travel from South Africa.
“Anyone who has travelled from South Africa recently is advised to self-isolate for 14 days and identify themselves through a GP for testing as soon as possible.”
He said it is “essential” that all healthcare workers travelling into Ireland fomr South Africa self-isolate for two weeks before returning to work.
Noting that the variant has not yet been identified in many other European countries, he said officials believe it has been found here because of the extent of the genome sequencing surveillance currently being carried out here.
The Director of the National Virus Reference Laboratory Dr Cillian De Gascun said the South African variant appears to be more infectious than the original strain but no more damaging to those that pick it up.
“The ECDC Assessment states that preliminary analyses indicate that the South African variant is associated with a heightened viral load and may have increased transmissibility,” he said.
“It also states that there is no evidence to date that this variant is associated with higher severity of infection.
“There is currently not enough information available to determine whether this variant poses a possible risk related to vaccine match and effectiveness. The antigenic characterisation of this new variant is ongoing, and results are expected in the coming weeks.”
Of the cases announced this evening, 3,013 were in Dublin with 1,374 in Cork, 538 in Limerick, 314 in Kildare, 310 in Donegal and the rest spread across all other counties.
Monaghan still has the highest 14-day rate in the country and has now passed the 2,00 mark on 2119.4 cases per 100,000 people.
There are now nine counties with 14-day rates higher than 1,000.
Louth, Limerick, Donegal and Dublin make up the rest of the top five.
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