The chief medical officer has warned Ireland's Covid-19 incidence rate could be at its highest, as the State saw a record-breaking number of coronavirus cases in a day.
The Department of Health recorded 3,394 new cases on Saturday, along with four further deaths related to Covid-19.
As of 11am on Sunday, 673 Covid-19 patients were in hospital, of which 62 are in intensive care. There have been 75 additional hospital admissions in the past 24 hours.
Dr Tony Holohan, said: “The incidence of Covid-19 is as high, if not higher now than it was in March.
“Every individual needs to act as if they are infectious. Hospitalisations are rising to levels close to what we saw in the springtime. Everyone needs to stay at home other than for essential work or care.
“It is really important that vulnerable and older people do not leave their homes unless absolutely essential.
“This includes asking neighbours or family to carry out errands such as grocery shopping, limiting all contacts to only those people you live with or have to visit for essential care reasons.
“We need to rediscover the spirit of solidarity and community we saw in March and April so that we can all do our part in protecting older and vulnerable people.
“People particularly vulnerable to Covid-19 include older persons and people with pre-existing medical conditions including cardiovascular disease, obesity, diabetes, chronic respiratory disease and cancer.”
The Republic's 14-day incidence rate is now at 381.6 per 100,000 people.
Earlier, Philip Nolan, chairman of the State's Covid-19 modelling group, said Ireland was in a “very significant surge”.
He warned that up to 6,000 cases a day could be seen in the coming days following the backlog in the system which is likely to see an additional 9,000 cases reported.
We now have 581 #COVID19 patients in hospital. There are 50 people in ICU. We have likely not seen the worst impacts yet. But everything we do today to stop this virus spreading makes a huge difference. Please let's all play our part to protect our health service.@HSELiveAdvertisement
— Paul Reid (@paulreiddublin) January 2, 2021
It comes as the head of the Health Service Executive (HSE) warned that Ireland has not yet seen the worst impact of the surge in Covid-19 cases on hospitals.
The high levels of coronavirus cases across the country have sparked warnings from health officials about the rising number of patients in hospital.
Paul Reid, chief executive of the HSE, urged the public to follow health guidelines.
The number of Covid-19 patients in hospital has been rising in recent weeks, with the number of coronavirus cases in intensive care units more than doubling in two weeks.
More than 109,000 coronavirus tests have been carried out in the last seven days, with a positivity rate of 16%.
Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly said that the number of vaccinations will be reported with the number of coronavirus cases published daily by his department.
It has also been reported that a further nine cases of the variant form of Covid-19 found in the UK have been detected in Ireland.
Cillian De Gascun, medical virologist, said that further testing of SarsCoV2 samples dating from December 23rd to 29th found the additional variant cases.
He said it takes the total number of cases found to 16.