All indicators of Covid-19 in Ireland are stable or declining slowly, according to Chair of the NPHET Irish Epidemiological Modelling Advisory Group, Professor Philip Nolan.
Prof Nolan said that, though the country may see an increase in cases over the coming days, the virus reproductive or 'R' number was now estimated as being very close to 1.0.
This, he said, was "a phenomenal testament to the public in keeping social transmission low."
Prof Nolan was speaking at this evening’s public health briefing where ten further deaths and 617 new cases of Covid-19 were confirmed.
Seven of the deaths reported this evening occurred in April. The others occurred in March, February and January.
The median age of those who died was 82 years and the age range was 62 - 104 years.
The overall Covid-19 death toll in Ireland now stands at 4,866, while the total number of cases confirmed here since the pandemic began is now 245,310.
Today's jump in cases was attributed to an increased detection in teenagers.
“As a very large cohort of adolescents return to school, appropriately and understandably, with any symptoms that have been referred for tests, and that is picking up some additional cases."
However, Prof Nolan said the increase wasn't confined to this group alone.
"We’re also seeing a significant increase in those aged 19 to 24, in those aged 40 to 64," he said.
He said the rise in case numbers indicated an increase in social mixing and mobility beginning around April 12 when some restrictions - schools, the 5km travel limit, limits on outdoor gatherings, construction, and childcare facilities - were lifted.
- 70% are under 45 years of age
- The median age is 33 years old
- 236 are in Dublin
- 84 are in Donegal
- 37 are in Kildare
- 34 are in Tipperary
- 30 are in Offaly
- and the remaining 196 cases are spread across 20 other counties
As of 8am this morning, 176 people with Covid-19 were hospitalised, with 48 patients in intensive care/
Nineteen additional hospitalisations have been recorded over the last 24 hours.
The 14-day incidence rate of the virus is now 118.1. The five-day incidence rate is 61.2, and the 5-day moving average is 415.
Echoing Prof Nolan's remarks, Chief Medical Officer Dr Tony Holohan said the public could look forward to a "real easing of measures" if the current low levels of transmission could be maintained.
“We are in a strong position in that transmission levels have reduced substantially and the roll-out of vaccination is protecting more and more of those at risk from the severe effects of Covid-19," the CMO said.
“If we can maintain our current position there is hope that we can look forward to a real easing of measures, but it is as important as ever that we don’t put that progress at risk by letting our collective guard down too much, or too early.”
Clinical Lead for Antimicrobial Resistance and Infection Control, HSE & Professor of Bacteriology at NUI Galway, Professor Martin Cormican said that the benefits of vaccination in Nursing Homes and long-term residential care facilities were now "very clear" with a significant drop in the number of residents and staff developing severe disease.
"New visitation guidance agreed by NPHET today represents another step to support residents in long-term residential care facilities in maintaining meaningful relationships with their family and friends. From the 4th May, nursing home residents - in which most residents are fully vaccinated - can expect 4 visits with 2 people per week,” he said.
1,240,965 doses of the Covid-19 vaccine have been administered in Ireland, as of Tuesday, April 20.
878,823 people have received their first jab, while a further 363,142 people have been fully vaccinated.
The Health Service Executive (HSE) is inviting all of those aged 60-64, including those with health conditions, to register for their Covid-19 vaccinations beginning tomorrow.
Patients in this group will be vaccinated with the AstraZeneca vaccine at one of the HSE’s vaccination centres around the country.
To avoid delays, the HSE has asked that people register online by age on specific days initially.
Meanwhile, the National Immunisation Committee (Niac) met earlier this afternoon to discuss the Johnson and Johnson vaccine, though no decision on the matter is expected on it until next week.
J&J paused its rollout in Europe following reports of rare blood clotting incidents in a handful of people who had received the vaccine in the US.
A review from European Medicines Agency (EMA) published earlier this week said that the benefits of the J&J jab outweigh any possible risks or side effects.
The European Commission (EC) has denied a claim by health Minister Stephen Donnelly that it is taking a legal case against vaccine manufacturer AstraZeneca over the company’s failure to meet delivery and contractual requirements.
Earlier, Mr Donnelly said Ireland was among the EU countries that would be joining an EU case against the company.
However, a European Commission spokesman later said that no such legal actions had been taken “at this point in time.”
EC health spokesman Stefan De Keersmaecker said the Commission was looking at all options and that any decision would be taken jointly by all EU member states.
According to the EU, AstraZeneca delivered just 30m of the 120m vaccine codes it promised to the EU in the first quarter of this year.