More than 1,000 people are now in hospital with Covid-19, HSE chief executive Paul Reid has confirmed.
The news comes after days of record Covid-19 case numbers in Ireland, following the arrival of the Omicron variant late last year.
Mr Reid said on Monday that there is a “continual strain” on the health system, in part due to rising hospital cases but also as a result of significant staff absences due to Covid-19.
He said that it was good news that the proportion of people entering hospital was “significantly down on what it would be in previous waves”.
However, he said that despite indications that Omicron causes a less severe illness, “there is no-one in hospital with a mild illness”.
The HSE boss said that around 14,000 to 15,000 staff are absent due to Covid-19.
He said that the “pace” of the absences had been a challenge for the HSE.
Following the opening of vaccinations for children aged five to 11, 83,000 have been registered to received the vaccine, Mr Reid said.
Around 27,000 had received a first dose of the vaccine, he added.
Mr Reid was also asked about media reports that the National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet) is due to consider mandatory vaccination.
He indicated that he would not personally support such a move.
“I would prefer to be winning people’s heart and minds,” he said, referring to Ireland’s already high take-up of vaccines.
He also said that the HSE expects that people will be able to register positive antigen tests online from later this week.