The number of positive COVID-19 tests increased by 32% over the past week, HSE Chief Executive Paul Reid confirmed. 

There were 1,930 new cases of the virus diagnosed in the seven days leading up to September 22, Reid said, compared to 1,470 in the seven days previously. 

Reid also said that the number of COVID-19 hospitalizations was of growing concern, with 94 confirmed cases of the virus in Irish hospitals and 16 coronavirus patients requiring intensive care. 

The HSE Chief Executive said that there was an increasing number of outbreaks in people's homes and urged people to take the virus seriously.

He reminded people that individual actions had an impact in spreading the virus and said that control of the virus was "in our hands" as he called for people to cut down the number of friends and family they interact with. 

Reid was speaking at the launch of the HSE's winter plan, which outlines details on how it plans to deal with the coronavirus over the coming months. 

The HSE will make 483 extra acute hospital beds available over the winter, with 251 extra beds to be added before the turn of the year and a further 232 beds to be added in the early new year. 

The HSE will additionally add an extra 89 sub-acute beds by the end of the year. A sub-acute hospital bed is viewed as a level below an acute bed and is often used for patients who are not quite ready to be discharged. 

The plan, which covers from now up until April 2021, also calls for 17 extra clinical care beds to add to the 282 intensive care beds in Irish hospitals. 

The HSE says it will need 10,000 additional staff members to implement the plan; 2,760 this year and 7,500 next year. 

Reid said that the coming winter was going to be more difficult than any other. 

"This winter is going to be more difficult than any we’ve ever faced before. We are living with COVID-19, we are living differently, however we have planned differently and we have to take confidence in our Winter Plan," he said.

"By ensuring agility and innovative healthcare measures, we can prioritise the health and wellbeing of our staff and the public, through the provision of healthcare pathways in the community and in our hospitals."

The plan is supported by an additional €600 million in Government funding and also calls for 20 community assessment hubs, which help to manage the spread of COVID-19, by the end of March. 

There are currently seven community assessment hubs in operation in Ireland with a further three on standby. The hubs allow people who have tested positive for the coronavirus or who are likely to have the virus to have a face-to-face appointment with a GP.

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