Incidence of faster-spreading COVID-19 has risen more in Ireland -PM

FILE PHOTO: A woman wearing a protective face mask takes a photo of the empty city centre shopping street after the government imposed the highest level of restrictions amid the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, in Galway, Ireland, January 1, 2021. REUTERS/Clodagh Kilcoyne

DUBLIN (Reuters) - The incidence of the more infectious variant of the coronavirus first discovered in England has risen further in Ireland in recent days and accounted for almost half of the most recent sample of positive tests, Prime Minister Micheál Martin said.

Ireland’s 14-day infection rate has risen 10-fold in the last three weeks to 1,291 cases per 100,000, fueled by the new variant and the reopening of shops, restaurants and relaxing of a ban on household visits ahead of Christmas.

Martin said he was told by Ireland’s chief medical officer that the new variant accounted for 45% of the most recent 92 samples than underwent additional testing, compared with 25% of those tested in the week to Jan. 3 and 9% two weeks earlier.

Reporting by Padraic Halpin; Editing by Hugh Lawson