A further six Covid-related deaths have been reported today as the country marks one year since the virus arrived on our shores.
All six deaths occurred this month. The youngest person who lost their life was 41 and the oldest was 86 years old.
The Health Protection Surveillance Centre has also been notified of 612 confirmed cases of Covid-19.
Reflecting on the past 12 months, Deputy Chief Medical Officer Dr Ronan Glynn paid tribute to the 6,300 people who have lost their lives on the island of Ireland and said that we remember the families of all of those who have lost loved ones to the virus.
"Our lives have changed in ways we never thought possible," said Dr Glynn.
"The response of colleagues across all parts of our health system has been remarkable.
"We should be extraordinarily proud, and take great heart, from the dedication and resilience which has been – and continues to be - shown by everyone involved in this response."
Dr Glynn said the response from the public has demonstrated the best of us as a people as the country has worked together buying in as a collective to what has been necessary to protect each other.
"Last Spring, we met the challenge presented to us with collective enthusiasm," said Dr Glynn.
"Ironically, while that enthusiasm has understandably waned and gone, there are more concrete reasons for hope and optimism now than at any time over the last 12 months."
The Deputy CMO pointed to a number of positive indicators that have emerged in recent times:
- Week-on-week reductions in case numbers over past six weeks
- Ireland on track to have an incidence which is amongst the lowest in Europe
- Number of Covid-19 patients in hospital fallen by 38% in past two weeks
- Three highly effective vaccines with more on the way and country on course to have given 80% of adults at least one dose by end of June
- Vaccines having positive impact already with cases among healthcare workers and in nursing homes falling dramatically
- Evidence mounting that vaccines helping to stop people passing virus on to others
Dr Glynn said Irish people are educated and informed with most people continuing to do most of the right things most of the time, overcoming disinformation and playing their part in solidarity with one another.
He highlighted the work of healthcare workers and all those who have stepped up to challenges as they have presented over the past 12 months.
Although the arrival of new variants has brought uncertainty, Dr Glynn said existing vaccines are performing well against them and work is already underway to develop booster versions should they be required.
Ireland has been doing the work and progress has been made but Dr Glynn warned that while there is good reason to have hope, there is still a long way to go.
"Our case numbers are still far too high and we must continue to do all we can to suppress this disease over the coming weeks.
"But if we can do this successfully through March, our focus will begin to turn to what we can do, rather than what we cannot.
"Yes, we need to be cautious and yes, there will be challenges over the coming months.
"But together, through science and solidarity, we will get through this and this pandemic will end."
Today's 612 cases brings the total number of Covid-19 cases in the Republic to 219,592.
The highest number of cases are in Dublin with the capital accounting for 289 cases. There are 45 cases in Limerick, 34 in Longford, 33 in Galway and 26 in Kildare. The remaining 185 cases are spread across 19 other counties.
As of 8am this morning, there are 554 Covid-19 patients in hospitals around the country, of which 133 are in ICU. There have been 19 additional hospitalisations in the past 24 hours.
The country's 14-day incidence rate per 100,000 currently stands at 212.2. Two counties have an incidence rate about 300 - Offaly with 395.1 and Longford with 369.4.
A senior member of the National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet) says he expects widespread vaccination will be underway in the summer months.
As of Thursday, 271,594 first doses have been administered while 137,935 second doses have been given.
Professor Philip Nolan, who chairs Nphet's modelling group, told Newstalk restrictions can be relaxed once more people are vaccinated against the virus.
He said: "I anticipate there be some progressive easing of restrictions over time from April, May onwards.
"There'll probably be a point at which we have quite wide-spread vaccinations that many of the restrictions can fall away very quickly, particularly if vaccination is highly effective, as we hope it might be, in interrupting transmission."
A continuation of Level 5 restrictions will last until at least April 5, while any further easing of restrictions will need a further three to four week period to allow for assessment of the impact of changes.
The Chief Clinical Officer for the HSE, says handshaking might become a thing of the past in life after the Covid-19 pandemic.
When asked about his view of life after Covid, Dr Colm Henry told RTÉ Radio 1's This Week, he doesn't expect anyone believes life will go back to "exactly where it was" before the pandemic began.
"Whatever about the handshake, which may be beyond resuscitation as a social exercise," Dr Henry said.
"I think hugging will certainly come back, but I think at this stage there's much more hope than despair looking at the real-world evidence of vaccines."
Dr Henry said that countries, where the vaccines have been rolled out, are already seeing huge drops in hospitalisation, serious illness and death in the "most vulnerable groups".
He said this justifies the Irish decision to priorities these groups for vaccination first.
He said: "At this point in time we're seeing real benefits for health care workers, real benefits for frontline workers in hospitals, real benefits for residents in residential care settings, which translates right through to safer hospitals, safer health care settings and reduced illness, hospitalisation and death in older people."
A further three people have died in Northern Ireland after testing positive for coronavirus.
Another 136 individuals have tested positive for the virus, according to the latest update from the Department of Health.
On Sunday morning, there were 301 Covid-positive patients in hospital, of whom 34 were in intensive care.