More than 500 deaths related to Covid-19 occurred in January and health chiefs have said that "we can unfortunately expect this trend to continue" in coming days.
The news came as the National Public Health Emergency Team confirmed there have been 51 further Covid-19 deaths in Ireland.
There have also been 2,608 new confirmed cases of the virus here.
Some 49 of these deaths occurred in January. The Department of Health stated that the median age of those who died is 80 years and the age range is 58-103 years.
The vast majority of today's cases are in the capital with 1,019 cases in Dublin.
There are 204 cases in Cork, 135 in Donegal, 132 in Galway, 131 in Kildare, and the remaining 987 cases are spread across all other counties.
Of today's cases:
- 1,230 are men / 1,346 are women
- 55% are under 45 years of age
- The median age is 42 years old
Dr Tony Holohan said there is still a "very large burden of infection" in the country.
The Chief Medical officer said: "While we are making clear progress in reducing incidence we can see we still have a very large burden of infection – to illustrate this on December 1, when we last eased restrictions, our five-day moving average was 261 cases per day, today it is almost ten times that number at 2,430 cases per day.
“It is evident that the population is working as one to reduce contacts and interrupt further transmission of the disease.
"However, we are witnessing the effects of high levels of community transmission through our hospital and ICU admissions and reported deaths. We need to continue to work together to drive this infection down and bring the disease back under control.”
Dr Ronan Glynn highlighted how there have been 532 Covid-19-related deaths so far in January and he said "we can unfortunately expect this trend to continue over the coming days".
He said: "Limiting contacts, keeping physical distance from others, hand hygiene, appropriate use of face coverings and general awareness about how your interactions could potentially spread infection will ultimately prevent further morbidity. Following public health advice will directly save lives.”
In a letter to the Health Minister written early this month, Dr Holohan warned that up to 1,000 deaths may occur this month.
Professor Philip Nolan, Chair of the Nphet Irish Epidemiological Modelling Advisory Group, confirmed that the R number has fallen below 1.
“Incidence is gradually falling but remains very high across all age groups but particularly in those aged 85 and older,” said Prof Nolan.
“A considerable effort by all of us to cut down on contacts has resulted in the R number reducing to 0.5 - 0.8. We have to keep it below 1.0 if we are to successfully emerge out of this current wave.”
The 14-day incidence rate now stands at 1,141 cases per 100,000 population.
The Department of Health also confirmed the HSE’s publication of a study looking at antibodies to Covid-19 in healthcare workers in two Irish hospitals.
The PRECISE study found that in St James’s Hospital, 15% of staff had antibodies for Covid-19 while 4.1% of staff in University Hospital Galway had antibodies.
“The results of the study will help the health service in its response to Covid-19,” said Dr Lorraine Doherty, National Clinical Director for Health Protection HSE, Health Protection Surveillance Centre.
“It is also important to note that antibody positivity cannot be taken to mean a person is immune, and all Infection Prevention and Control measures still need to be followed.
“The study will be repeated in the springtime to see how seroprevalence changes with successive waves of the pandemic, and how antibody status changes in the individuals who participate both times.
“The second round of testing will also look at vaccine response versus natural infection, given recent commencement of the national vaccination programme.”
The figures come as clinical nurse manager Bernie Waterhouse spoke movingly earlier today of her 10 months so far working on a Covid-19 ward at St James Hospital.
Among the challenges she described were “the acuity of the Covid patients we are looking after on the wards; they deteriorate very quickly, they die very quickly or go to ICU very quickly.” Days on the ward when a number of patients pass away or become so ill as to need ICU care are very difficult for the staff also, she said.
On Thursday, Health Minister Stephen Donnelly told the Dáil that the Government’s plan is to vaccinate every Irish citizen and resident by the end of September.
The projection is based on approval of the AstraZeneca vaccine by the European Medicines Agency, scheduled for January 29.