There have been 57 further deaths and 650 new cases of Covid-19 confirmed in the State.
Almost 90 per cent of Irish cases are now the more contagious B117 variant, popularly known as the UK variant, according to the National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet).
Of the deaths confirmed on Wednesday, 34 occurred in February, 21 in January, one in December and one in November. The median age of those who died was 82 years old, while ages ranged from 52 to 99 years.
Of the cases notified on Wednesday, 65 per cent are under 45 years of age. Some 192 are located in Dublin, with a further 53 in Galway, 50 in Meath, 46 in Kildare and 46 in Cork. The remaining 263 cases are spread across 19 other counties.
The increased transmissibility of this variant is apparent in the current profile of the disease
Dr Ronan Glynn, Deputy Chief Medical Officer, said: “Although we have made great progress, the situation remains precarious.
“Almost 90 per cent of cases in Ireland are the B117 variant. The increased transmissibility of this variant is apparent in the current profile of the disease in households, with one in three household contacts of a confirmed case testing positive for Covid-19.
“This underlines the need for people to exercise caution in households and other settings. In particular, people should isolate immediately on experiencing any symptoms and contact their GP.”
It comes as traffic levels across the country are continuing to rise, despite Government warnings against unnecessary travel.
New research on the public’s activity and behaviour during current Level 5 restrictions indicates that some who believe they are compliant still have “a lot of discretionary contacts”.
With a vaccine rollout largely considered a major component of the State’s exit strategy from the pandemic, calls have been made for family carers to be treated as frontline healthcare workers.
Mary Lou McDonald said it was “absolutely essential” that the country’s 500,000 family carers are given priority on the list when it is reconfigured by the Department of Health.
Taoiseach Micheál Martin told the Dáil that Health Minister Stephen Donnelly had written to the National Immunisation Advisory Committee (NIAC) about the matter and that the Government expected to receive updated advice on Wednesday.
Mr Martin also said that the single-dose Johnson & Johnson Covid-19 vaccine should be available in Ireland by April and will be a game-changer in the plan to vaccinate the entire population.
With discussions continuing over the holding of Leaving Certificate examinations, it is expected that parents of children returning to school will be asked to sign declaration forms stating that they have no reason to believe their child has an infectious disease such as Covid-19.
It is one of a number of new safety measures contained in a draft framework for reopening schools in light of the greater infection threat posed by the new UK variant.