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 [Wednesday] 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."
According to figures from the HSE, last night 990 people with confirmed Covid-19 were being treated at hospitals around the country.
Fifty-seven people with the virus were being treated at Cork University Hospital, the sixth-highest number nationally.
Elsewhere in Cork, 19 people with Covid-19 were being cared for at the Mercy University Hospital.
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.
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.
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.
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.