A district in Co Waterford has recorded the highest rate of Covid-19 in Ireland for the second week in a row.
The Portlaw-Kilmacthomas local electoral area had an infection rate of 2,138 cases per 100,000 people in the most recent two-week period.
Portlaoise in Co Laois had the second-worst incidence of Covid in the country at 2,092 cases per 100,000.
The BT10 postcode, which covers Finaghy in south Belfast, had the highest infection rate in the North at 2,047 cases per 100,000 – equivalent to 1 in 50 people testing positive for coronavirus in the last 14 days.
Infections remain high in Dublin, with Blanchardstown-Mulhuddart the worst-affected area in the capital (1,980 per 100,000). Other Dublin areas with high case rates included Lucan (1,873) and Rush (1,868).
Waterford City South (1,953), Newbridge in Co Kildare (1,902), Clonmel in Co Tipperary (1,892), Maynooth in Co Kildare (1,890.3) and Maghera, Co Derry (1,879) make up the rest of the most Covid-infected districts in the country.
The figures are based on the number of new cases in the Republic’s 166 local electoral areas and the North's 80 postcode areas over the most recent two-week period.
Augher in Co Tyrone had the lowest rate of coronavirus at 250 per 100,000, followed by Manorhamilton in Co Leitrim, which had the lowest Covid rate in the Republic for the second week in a row at 508 per 100,000.
Other areas with low rates included Newcastle West in Co Limerick (616), Kenmare in Co Kerry (623) and Belmullet, Co Mayo (643).
Omicron ‘spreading rapidly’
Meanwhile, Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly said the country was facing “an urgent situation” with the Omicron variant “spreading rapidly”.
On Thursday he disclosed figures showing a sharp increase in infections caused by the new variant in just a matter of days.
Analysis of new Covid cases with the identifying marker for the variant showed Omicron accounted for 27 per cent of all new cases in the Republic, up from 1 per cent of all new cases last week, 5 per cent last weekend and 14 per cent on Tuesday.
Cabinet Ministers will meet on Friday to consider an earlier closing time for hospitality and curtailed crowds at sports events following fresh advice from public health advisers.
It is understood Ministers will consider a closing time for hospitality of as early as 5pm from next week.
The National Public Health Emergency Team met on Thursday afternoon and finalised its recommendations to Government, which are aimed at reducing socialising before and after the festive period.
In the North, Stormont ministers will meet next Wednesday to consider potential new restrictions in response to Omicron.
At a meeting on Thursday, Executive ministers received a stark briefing from officials on what the next number of weeks could hold if action is not taken.
A briefing paper warned “significant intervention” could be required immediately after Christmas to keep Covid-19 hospital inpatient numbers in the region below 1,000.
Across the Irish Sea, Omicron has pushed new daily Covid infections in Britain to their highest level of the pandemic. Wales will see a return to tougher restrictions after Christmas with nightclubs ordered to close from December 27th.