Northern Ireland reports first cases of COVID-19 South African variant

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Sign encouraging people to wear face coverings amid the COVID-19 outbreak in Belfast

DUBLIN (Reuters) - Three confirmed cases of the COVID-19 variant first detected in South Africa have been found in Northern Ireland, the region's health ministry said on Tuesday.

The department said the risk of further transmission is judged to be low at this time. The first cases were detected across the open border in the Irish Republic in early January and a total of 11 cases have been reported so far.

"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," Northern Ireland Health Minister Robin Swann said in a statement.

(Reporting by Padraic Halpin; Editing by Catherine Evans)