That’s according to the government and health chiefs, but they also say there are still no plans to reintroduce restrictions, although the Health Service Executive’s (HSE) Emergency Department Taskforce asked that the imposition of public health measures be considered by the government.

By 8 a.m. on Tuesday of this week, there were 1,605 confirmed cases of the virus in hospitals, a slight decrease on Monday when 1,624 patients were in hospital. Officials expect the number of Covid hospital cases to top 2,200 within 10 days.

Christine Loscher, professor of immunology at Dublin City University, said cases are high at the moment because of the dominance of the highly-transmissible Omicron sub-variant BA.2, which now accounts for almost 95 percent of cases.

She told Virgin Media, “The levels in the community are really high. The risk of catching Covid at the moment has never been as high.” Case numbers would continue to increase over the coming weeks, she added.

Loscher’s comments came as the HSE warned of the pressure it is under as a result of the rising number of Covid hospitalizations.

The HSE’s chief clinical officer Colm Henry said the vaccination program had provided a level of protection.  He told RTE on Tuesday that the system “would have keeled over” without vaccination.

He added that the high level of Covid cases was having a significant impact on the health system, with 6,000 healthcare staff absent from work because of the virus.

Henry called on people to continue wearing masks in public places, including public transport, although it is no longer legally mandatory. “The pandemic has not gone away,” he added.

Meanwhile, Health Minister Stephen Donnelly said the advice he has received is not to consider bringing in any new public health measures, even though the number of coronavirus infections is likely running into hundreds of thousands a week.

Health Minister Stephen Donnelly.

Health Minister Stephen Donnelly.

He reiterated advice around mask-wearing, saying that while the legal requirement has been removed, the public health advice is still to wear a mask while on public transport or in a crowded indoor or outdoor setting, or healthcare setting.

 “There still is an important role for masks even though the legal requirements have been taken away,” he said.