The number of people in hospital in Ireland with Covid-19 remains three times higher than at the peak of the second wave in October, a senior Government official has said.
Liz Canavan, assistant secretary at Department of the Taoiseach, warned that while numbers are falling the country cannot afford them to level out at this point.
She urged people to remember the health system is continuing to operate under “intense pressure”.
“Hospital numbers are still at peak levels of wave two and we’re still using surge capacity,” she said.
“We will have three times the number in hospital today as we had at the peak of wave two. We need to remember that.
“While the numbers are falling we can’t plateau at this point. We haven’t come this far to only come this far.
“For now the virus is still with us and with the new variant it is potentially more transmissible than ever and we must continue to keep our guard up.”
Ms Canavan made the comments at a briefing in Government Buildings on Wednesday where she outlined that 1.7% of the population is fully vaccinated against Covid-19.
“We’re now 50 days into the rollout of the largest vaccination programme in the history of the state,” she said.
“We have delivered 4.9 vaccine doses per 100 people and 1.7% of our population is fully vaccinated.
“Ireland is progressing well with our programme compared to EU states and vaccines are being administered very quickly after their arrival in the country.”
Ms Canavan cautioned against people leaving the country for non-essential reasons as it is a breach of Level 5 restrictions, highlighting that the fine had increased from 100 to 500 euro.
Despite the restrictions, she said more than half of the passengers arriving in the country are Irish residents, and two-thirds of those are returning from holiday.
“This is a very concerning statistic,” she said.
“While we would all love and need a holiday, now is not the time to travel. Unless you are travelling for a specific essential purpose, please stay at home and follow the guidance.”
She said people who arrive in the country must quarantine but they can end the period of quarantine earlier than 14 days if they take a PCR test after five days.
Regulations requiring a pre-departure negative PCR test for all passengers arriving from overseas have been extended so anyone who arrives without a test is obliged to take one on arrival.
— HSE Ireland (@HSELive) February 10, 2021
Ms Canavan said the same rules and obligations on testing and quarantine apply to people who arrive from overseas via Northern Ireland.
She added that visa-free travel from Brazil and South Africa had been suspended, as had issuing of visas other than in exceptional circumstances.
Ms Canavan told the briefing that that 481,000 people received the Pandemic Unemployment Payment (PUP) this week, up 1,698 on last week and at a cost of 144.6 million euro.
She said around 5.8 billion euro had been paid under the scheme since last March.
Since the last payment 11,000 people had closed their PUP claim, with 8,000 saying they were returning to work.