There were 6,888 new cases of Covid-19 and eight further deaths reported by the National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet) on Sunday.

Sunday’s figures come amid increasing pressure on the hospital system as patient numbers rose over the weekend. As of 2pm today there were , 1,452 Covid-19 patients are hospitalised, of which 125 are in ICU. This means there were 100 additional hospitalisations in the past 24 hours.

The figures bring the total number of Covid-19 related deaths to 2,344 and the total number of confirmed cases to 147,613. The 5-day moving average pf daily cases is 6,861.

Of the cases notified on Sunday, 60 per cent were people under 45 years of age, with the median age being 38 years old.

Dublin recorded the highest number of cases with 2,088, followed by 862 in Cork, 469 in Limerick, 405 in Wexford and 320 in Waterford. The remaining 2,744 cases are spread across all other counties.

The 14-day incidence rate per 100,000 population is 1291.2 nationally, with 61,484 cases being confirmed between December 27th and January 9th.

Monaghan currently has the highest 14-day incidence rate per 100,000 at 2525, followed by Louth at 2201.2, Limerick at 1878.4 and Waterford at 1644. Wicklow had the lowest 14-day incidence rate at 609.4.

Earlier the chief executive of the HSE Paul Reid said the number of people in hospital with Covid-19 in the coming days is likely to reach double the highest level of 881 recorded at the peak of the first wave of the disease last spring. Mr Reid said the health system was under “increasing strain”.

Mr Reid said there were concerns in the health service at the rising numbers of hospitalisations.

Mr Reid said a new initiative to allow the HSE to access capacity in private hospitals had already been triggered given the incidence of Covid- 19 in the community, and some patients requiring non-Covid treatment had already been sent to the private sector.

Mr Reid told RTÉ’s This Week programme on Sunday that there were 37 vacant intensive care beds for adults and 11 for children across the health system. He said there were at present 286 fully-staffed intensive care beds in place and 16 additional such beds will be put in place by early February.

Mr Reid said that the new surge capacity for intensive care would involve a very significant mobilisation of the workforce, as there is a 7:1 ratio of nurses for each bed in such units.

Mr Reid said practically all private hospitals, bar the Beacon, had agreed to take part in a new agreement to provide capacity to the HSE and that talks were continuing on this over the weekend.

He said the deal would provide the HSE with access to about 600 additional beds in total and that the public system was calling on this “right now”.

“Private hospitals are taking some urgent non-Covid care, we have triggered the proposals [in the deal] already.”

Mr Reid said the HSE was mobilising to deal with 1 million vaccines per month arriving in the country.

He said the target of 35,000 Covid-19 vaccinations set for this week would be exceeded. “We have now accelerated [vaccination among] the most vulnerable groups, which are elderly people in nursing homes, and they will be completed over the next two weeks instead of the next three.”

Mr Reid said there would be deliveries of about 40,000 doses of the Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine every week until the end of February and the first of about 110,000 doses of the Moderna vaccine due in the first quarter of the year would arrive shortly.

Mr Reid said the key game-changer would be the arrival of the new Astra Zeneca vaccine if and when this was approved by regulators, as it was easier to use and transport.

“That is the one [OF WHICH]we would expect to see much higher volumes.”

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