The pace of Ireland's exit from the third wave of Covid-19 is going to be "longer and stickier" than previous waves, despite "good trends" overall in the fight against the virus, the health service chief has said.
Paul Reid said the pace of exiting this wave of the virus was going to be "a lot slower than the scale and pace than we entered it" because the virus was still transmitting at a "very risky level" across the community.
"It is going to take longer, it is going to be stickier and not at the pace that any of us would want or like," Mr Reid said.
The HSE chief executive said people with Covid-19 were presenting much sicker to hospital and that once admitted they were staying longer in hospital and ICU than in previous waves.
Mr Reid said there are 771 patients in hospital with Covid-19 on Thursday afternoon including 148 who were in ICU.
He said about 200 coronavirus patients were receiving advanced respiratory care on hospital wards.
But the number of people admitted to hospital with the virus had fallen by more than 25% in the last week and ICU admissions were down 11%.
Mr Reid told the HSE briefing on Thursday that more than two-thirds (68%) of positive cases confirmed last week were close contacts of previously confirmed cases.
He said positivity rates at community testing sites ranged from 16% to 20%.
Mr Reid said he understood the public's frustration over the rollout of the vaccination programme but he said it had entered a new phase this week with people over the age of 85 being vaccinated.
"We fully appreciate the frustration expressed by many members of the public and others that would like to see more vaccinations done every week," he said.
"There's nobody would like to see more of that than us."
He said the HSE was committed to delivering all the supply it receives and it was administering 95% of any supply of vaccines it receives so any issue was a supply one.
As of Monday, a total of 280,581 doses of Covid-19 vaccines had been administered, comprising 182,193 first doses and 98,388 second doses.
Mr Reid said almost 110,000 jabs will be administered between Monday and Sunday next week.
The HSE's plan includes the administration of about 36,000 doses for those over the age of 85 at around 240 GP practices, 62,000 doses for healthcare workers and 11,900 doses in long-term care facilities.
By the end of March Ireland will have received 1.248 million doses of Covid-19 vaccines.
Mr Reid added that from April onwards Ireland would receive at least a million doses a month.