The number of people in hospital with Covid-19 moved past 500 for the first time since March as public health officials expressed increasing concern about the rising number of infections.
There were 513 people in hospital with the disease on Tuesday, the highest level since the start of March when the country was emerging from the third and worst wave of the pandemic.
Of those, there were 97 people in hospital intensive care units, up from 74 a week ago.
There were 2,193 new cases reported by the Department of Health, putting the seven-day average – a metric that evens out daily fluctuations – at 2,119 a day, up 13 per cent in a week.
The department no longer discloses the number of deaths from the disease on a daily basis.
Northern Ireland’s Department of health reported a further four deaths of patients who had tested positive for Covid-19 and a further 1,124 cases of the disease. There were 358 Covid-positive patients in hospital in the North, of whom 34 were in intensive care.
The State's chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan said he was "increasingly worried about the rising incidence of the disease nationwide" and that the primary focus "must be to protect the most vulnerable from Covid-19."
“We are seeing a continuing increase in hospitalisation and intensive care admissions – a substantial amount of whom are not fully vaccinated – placing our frontline healthcare services, including non-Covid care, under significant pressure,” he said.
He asked people who have not come forward for a jab to get vaccinated to “significantly reduce your risk of severe illness if you contract the disease”.
HSE's national director of acute operations Liam Woods told RTÉ he was concerned about increased pressure on hospital workers when they were already busy with non-Covid care.
Dr Holohan described the vaccine as “our best defence” against Covid-19 but also urged people to continue following public health advice on hygiene, ventilation and social distancing.
Dr Anne Moore, a vaccine specialist at UCC's school of biochemistry, said there would be a large increase in cases until there was a "transmission-blocking vaccine" as it appeared the capacity of vaccines to prevent transmission appeared to wane over time.
She said the National immunisation Advisory Committee “need to crack on” and approve booster shots immediately for frontline healthcare workers with the likelihood that everyone will ultimately require a third dose due to waning immunity.
“I think we will eventually have to boost the rest of the population … because we are going to see a huge increase in the number of cases,” she said.
Increase in vaccinations
New HSE figures showed that there was an increased number of mostly young people seeking first doses of vaccine at vaccination centres over the Bank Holiday weekend – the same weekend that nightclubs opened to people with certificates showing full vaccination.
Just over 3,100 people received first doses of the vaccine over the long weekend, from Friday to Monday, compared with 1,611 over the previous weekend, running from Friday to Sunday.
Some 83 per cent of the people who received first doses in walk-ins or appointments over the Bank Holiday were aged 39 and under, with 58 per cent being aged 30 years and under.
The biggest age group to receive first doses were the 12- to 15-year-old age group (32.5 per cent) and the 18- to 30-year-old age group (24.9 per cent).
Including second doses, there were 4,503 people vaccinated over the four-day weekend, compared with 2,868 over the previous three-day weekend.
Just over 91 per cent of the population aged 12 and over have been vaccinated.
In a push to have more people vaccinated, the HSE is targeting parts of the border counties, Dublin and the Midlands where vaccination rates are lower and focusing on younger people, pregnant women, the medically vulnerable and ethnic groups who are hesitant about the vaccine.