THE number of cases of Covid-19 in long-term residential care settings has decreased rapidly over recent weeks, deputy chief medical officer Dr Ronan Glynn has said.
The public health doctor said that the number of cases dropped more than he expected, given the level of disease in the community.
In a letter to the Department of Health sent last week, Dr Glynn said that the epidemiological situation in Ireland was improving but remained "very finely balanced".
The National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet) said that while indicators of mobility across the population were low, they continued to drift upwards.
"This is a cause for concern," Dr Glynn said.
"Health and social care services continue to experience significant pressure from the current wave of infection.
"The number of confirmed cases in hospital and in ICU is still high but continues to reduce.
"The number of cases in long-term residential care settings has decreased rapidly over weeks, more so than would have been expected given the level of disease in the community.
"Deaths associated with these outbreaks in these settings also appear to be decreasing, with trends supporting the emerging evidence of the protective effect of vaccination."
Dr Glynn said there had been some recent increase in the average number of close contacts per adult confirmed case, but that it remained stable at 2.6.
"We are maintaining a steady suppression of transmission," he added.
Nphet said that the community test positivity rate had decreased over the past week.
It said the rate remained high at 13% over the seven days leading up to March 2, which compared to 15% on February 23.
There were 715 people who died from Covid-19 in February. This is compared to 1,314 deaths in January and 196 deaths in December.
Of the 715 deaths in February, 95 were associated with hospital outbreaks and 273 were associated with nursing home outbreaks.
There were 419 people with Covid-19 in hospital as of Monday morning, with 103 patients in ICU.
Up to 84,000 vaccines are to be delivered this week, with some 37,000 over-70s to receive their first dose of the vaccine.
Around 10,000 people with underlying conditions aged between 16 and 69 will also receive their first dose this week.
The Cohort 4 group includes people aged 16 to 69 with a medical condition that puts them at very high risk of severe disease and death.