A further 2,098 confirmed cases of Covid-19 have been reported in the State.
As of 8am on Friday, 251 Covid-19 patients were hospitalised, of whom 52 were in intensive care units (ICU). The current number of ICU beds is just under 300 with a target for the end of year at 321. Last year, the bed numbers increased from 255.
More than half a million Covid-19 vaccines have arrived in Ireland in recent days as the HSE prepares to operate 42 walk-in vaccination centres over the weekend.
Those aged 16 and older can get both their first and second doses without appointments, as long as they arrive at designated times in each centre.
Separately, the HSE has said 130,000 children between the ages of 12 and 15 have now registered for vaccines, with 65,000 already completed. According to Central Statistics Office (CSO) data, there are about 269,000 in this cohort.
Overall, Ireland has 73 per cent of its population vaccinated. This is made up of 84 per cent of eligible recipients being fully vaccinated, and 90 per cent at least partially vaccinated, in a national drive held as one of the most successful participation rates in Europe.
On Friday Chief Medical Officer Dr Tony Holohan warned that infection rates had not hit such highs since January.
“This is a concerning indication of the level of Covid-19 circulating in our communities,” he said.
He stressed that vaccines were very effective and while it is possible for fully vaccinated individuals to become infected and pass the virus onto others, the vaccines significantly reduce that risk.
“That is why it is vital for as many people as possible to come forward for vaccination against this disease.”
This weekend, those 16 and over can go to any walk-in vaccine centre and not necessarily near to where they live, so long as they show up at the designated times. The locations of the 42 centres are available on hse.ie.
Anyone due a second dose of the Pfizer or AstraZeneca vaccines can also receive it at a designated walk-in centre but will require proof of a first dose, such as the vaccination record card.
“It does not matter where you had your first dose – even if you were vaccinated at a GP, pharmacy or in another country,” the HSE has outlined. The same vaccine will be used for both doses.
HSE policy is that if a second dose of the Pfizer vaccine is given at an interval of less than 17 days, this is not considered a valid dose.
If a dose is given between 17 and 27 days, this is considered a valid dose.
For the AstraZeneca vaccine, the interval must be 24 days or more.
This week, 540,000 mRNA vaccines were delivered to the State, including the first part of a 700,000 consignment from Romania. The HSE expects a similar delivery level next week.
Meanwhile in Northern Ireland, nine further deaths of patients who had tested positive for Covid-19 have been reported.
The North’s Department of Health said on Friday there had also been 2,397 new confirmed cases of the virus in the last 24-hour reporting period.
On Friday morning, there were 388 Covid-positive patients in hospital in the North, with 47 in intensive care.
The North’s Minister of Health Robin Swann said the figures were “deeply concerning, both in terms of deaths and new cases”.
“The Delta variant is taking its toll on Northern Ireland and it is vital that as many of our citizens as possible are vaccinated,” he said.
He urged people not to delay getting vaccinated, adding, “it will never be easier to get your jab than it is now.”
The North’s “big jab weekend” initiative begins on Saturday. It will see mass vaccination centres in Northern Ireland again offering walk-in first jabs for all adult age groups.
This is in addition to ongoing vaccinations at walk-in pop-up clinics, and at participating community pharmacies.
This weekend will be the last chance for anyone aged 18 and over to get their first jab at a mass vaccination centre. – Additional reporting: PA