Three cases of the South Africa coronavirus variant have been detected in Northern Ireland, the Department of Health (DoH) has confirmed.
They are the first cases identified in the region.
The department said the risk of transmission was low and that contact tracing had been deployed.
Health Minister Robin Swann said it underlined the need for caution but did not mean the variant would become the most dominant in Northern Ireland.
The variant was detected in the Republic of Ireland last month.
“Identification of a confirmed case or cases of this variant in Northern Ireland was inevitable at some point,” said Mr Swann.
“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… spread in the same way and we all have an important role to play in stopping the spread of this virus.”
The prevalent strain in Northern Ireland is the Kent variant – B117 – which is thought to be responsible for about 70% of cases, according to First Minister Arlene Foster.
The South Africa variant shares some characteristics with the Kent variant and is also more transmissible than the original virus.