A further 17,065 cases of Covid-19 have been confirmed by the Department of Health as over 50 per cent of the adult population have received a booster jab.
As of 8am on Friday morning, there were 1,023 patients with Covid-19 in hospital, of which 83 were in ICU.
On Friday, HSE director general Paul Reid said he is “cautiously hopeful” that the number of Covid hospitalisations is levelling out.
According to Mr Reid, in the past week, 305,000 PCR tests had been administered and 350,000 antigen tests dispersed with antigen tests now playing “a core part” of the HSE’s strategy.
Hospitals were “managing” through “this difficult time”, but there was a “strain” on non Covid services.
Chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan appealed for people who have not yet been vaccinated or received their booster jab to do so.
To date, 59 per cent of the adult population here have availed of a booster dose, compared with just 32 per cent across Europe.
"The primary purpose of vaccination has always been to prevent serious illness and death – Covid-19 vaccines continue to prove remarkably effective in this regard and have provided significant protection to the most vulnerable and to our health system in recent weeks, with the booster dose restoring protection against severe disease to 90 per cent," Dr Holohan explained.
"At present, just 20 per cent of people in intensive care have been boosted.
"In addition, we know that those who have been boosted are less susceptible to infection and, if infected, are less infectious to others, compared with those who have not been boosted.
"It is important that those who have not yet availed of a booster vaccine now do so; appointments are available through vaccination centres, GPs and pharmacies.
"Finally, it is also very important that those who have not yet availed of any vaccine, for whatever reason, come forward for it as soon as possible.
"Without vaccination, they remain susceptible to the severest effects of Covid-19.
"Your GP, pharmacist, obstetrician or midwife will be very happy to discuss any concerns or questions you may have about vaccination."
From Friday, close contacts who have had their booster jab and do not have any symptoms will no longer have to isolate.
They are, however, advised to wear a higher grade masks and to continue taking regular antigen tests.
The new rules have been described as a "complete disaster" by an employment law solicitor who said the fact employers cannot ask about the vaccination status of staff is a "major issue".
Richard Grogan told BreakingNews.ie that while the new rules will help with staffing issues, the fact that employers are prevented from asking about vaccination status and antigen testing will present "huge issues".
However, the country’s deputy chief medical officer defended changes in the rules around self-isolation for close contacts of Covid-19 cases, amid concern that they have become too loose.
'Hopeful' about lifting restrictions
Earlier on Friday, the Taoiseach said he is hopeful Covid restrictions can be removed at the end of the month, allowing events and the hospitality sector to open after 8pm.
The National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet) is meeting next Thursday and will advise the Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly on the current restrictions.
Micheál Martin said the country is making progress against Omicron.
“I would hope that we would be in a position to move forward in terms of the current restrictions, but I’m not in a position yet to say anything definitive about that,” Mr Martin said on Friday.
“I want to really see what the public health people are saying, and also having a sense of where Omicron is.
“So far, I think, so good in respect of the fact that it’s not translating into ICU (intensive care unit) attendances. The case numbers seem to be levelling. So we are hopeful in terms of the progress we’ve made to date.”