Three confirmed cases of the South African variant of Covid-19 have been detected in Northern Ireland.
These are the first confirmed cases in the province.
A detailed health protection risk assessment and contact tracing response has been deployed. The risk of transmission is judged to be low at this time.
The Department of Health is working closely with the Public Health Agency and the Regional Virology Laboratory in relation to the investigation and assessment of these case.
Health Minister Robin Swann stated: “I have previously been clear that identification of a confirmed case or cases of this variant in Northern Ireland was inevitable at some point.
“This development does not mean that this variant is going to become the most prevalent, or the dominant strain in Northern Ireland.
“However, it does underline once again the very real need for continuing caution in relation to Covid-19.
“The best way to stop variants developing or spreading is to keep pushing down infection rates and transmission of the virus in our community.
“All variants of the SARS-COV-2 virus spread in the same way – and we all have an important role to play in stopping the spread of this virus, by following the tried and tested public health advice.
“That means staying at home, cutting down your contacts if you have to go out, avoiding busy indoor settings with poor ventilation, washing your hands carefully and often, and wearing a face covering.”
All travellers returning to Northern Ireland must self isolate for 10 days from the date of their return.