He said the Department of Health is liaising closely with its counterparts in the south and in Britain.
The new B.1.1.529 variant was detected and announced by South Africa's National Institute of Communicable Diseases last Thursday.
On Friday the World Health Organisation (WHO) declare it a variant of concern due to the fact that it features 'several mutations that may have an impact on how it behaves, for example, on how easily it spreads or the severity of illness it causes'.
Professor McBride said: “The emergence of the Omicron variant is a serious and concerning development following the extreme pressures that we have already faced during the course of the COVID-19 pandemic to date.
"Whilst it is highly likely that there will be cases of the variant in NI at some point it is essential that preventative measures are taken to delay and/or reduce its incursion. This is a rapidly developing situation with the potential need for the addition of more countries to the Red List in the coming days.”
Dr. McBride urged the public to take steps to prevent the spread of the new variant.
“It is really important that everyone takes sensible precautions - get a PCR test if you have symptoms. self-isolate when asked and wear your face-covering. Remember to ventilate rooms and please get your vaccine and boosters as soon as you can.
The Department of Health has said it intends to align the north with the rest of the UK on PCR testing and self-isolation requirements for new arrivals.
This will mean all international arrivals will have to take a Day 2 PCR test and self-isolate until they receive a negative test.