A further 63 Covid-related deaths have been confirmed by the Department of Health bringing the total number of fatalities to 2,460.
56 deaths happened in January of this year while five of the fatalities were reported in November last year. One death was confirmed in December and the date of the remaining fatality is under investigation.
Today's 63 confirmed deaths is the second-highest daily figure ever recorded, and the highest since the end of April.
3,569 cases of coronavirus have been confirmed today by the Department of Health.
The number of deaths from Covid-19 now stands at 2,460 and there have been 159,144 confirmed cases of the virus since the outbreak began.
There are now 1,770 people receiving treatment for the virus in hospital and 172 of them are in intensive care. 133 patients have been admitted to hospital in the last 24 hours and 27 people have moved to intensive care units (ICU). 11 people were discharged from ICU and 102 patients have now left hospital.
In April last year, during the peak of the first wave, 881 were hospitalised, today's figure is now twice that.
Speaking about the latest case numbers and confirmed Covid-related deaths, Chief Medical Officer (CMO), Dr Tony Holohan, said rising numbers of deaths are to be expected following the surging cases in recent weeks, despite recent positive results in case numbers and testing rates.
“We are seeing some early signs of progress with daily cases numbers and positivity rates. We can take some hope in them, but we have a long, long way to go.
"In the coming weeks ahead, we will need to draw upon our reserves of resilience from springtime as we can expect to see hospitalisations, admissions to ICU and mortality related to Covid-19 increase day on day,” said the CMO.
Dr Holohan urged the public to comply with public health guidelines and practise social distancing to help prevent the health service being overwhelmed and ensure the success of the rollout of the vaccine. "Sadly, what we are seeing now is a result of the very high daily confirmed case numbers we experienced for successive weeks," he said.
The CMO reminded the public that acute care for illness is still available in hospital and that people should contact their GP with serious concerns.
A further breakdown of the Covid-19 cases confirmed today shows:
- 1,616 case are men and 1,924 cases are women
- 54% of cases are under 45 years of age
- The median age of confirmed cases is 42 years old
1,119 cases are in Dublin while 416 cases were confirmed in Cork. In Galway, 200 cases were confirmed. Louth reported 182 cases and Waterford recorded 169. The remaining 1,483 cases are spread across all other counties in the country.
The national 14-day incidence rate per 100,000 is now 1448.8. Monaghan and Louth reported incidence rates of 2738.4 and 2323 respectively. Limerick, at 2068.3, reports the third-highest rate in the country with socialising identified as a major factor in the rising infections there.
Rising hospilations have continued to place enormous stress on the health service according to health officials while a higher infection rate has impacted staff levels.
The chief operations officer of the HSE, Anne O’Connor,said that between acute hospitals, support services and community services there were over 7,000 workers absent because of Covid-19.
The chief operations officer also admitted that health workers who were close contacts were being called back to work before completing their 14 days self-isolation. This was being used as “a last resort”.
Staff who were close contacts but had no symptoms were tested and then closely monitored by occupational health, she said.
Every member of staff was needed on duty and to anyone who could help frontline workers go to work, she said “please help” when asked about the shortage of child care.
Staff who were facing such difficulties were being facilitated where possible, she added.
The level of absenteeism was challenging, she added.
Meanwhile, the country’s largest nursing union has called for urgent government intervention to help the health system against the pandemic.
The Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO) said childcare supports are needed for workers to boost staff numbers and that all capacity available in private hospitals needs to be nationalised.