Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly has commended healthcare workers for their hard work throughout the pandemic as the health system once again faces a fresh wave of Covid infections.
In a message to healthcare workers posted on Twitter, Mr Donnelly thanked them for stepping up "again and again" to care for people across all health services.
"It's been another really tough year for everyone working in healthcare," he said.
"Covid has meant more pressure, more stress, longer working hours in our hospitals, in community care, in social care and every other aspect of healthcare across the country.
Thank you to all our health and social care workers, who have done such an outstanding job throughout another challenging year. Would like to wish you all a very Merry Christmas @roinnslainte @HSELive @AmbulanceNAS pic.twitter.com/y5nR43J2vI
— Stephen Donnelly (@DonnellyStephen) December 24, 2021
"In spite of this, our healthcare workers have stepped up again and again to keep people safe, to make sure people keep getting the care that they need."
Mr Donnelly said it was his "great privilege" to meet many healthcare professionals around the country.
"Time and time again, I hear from healthcare workers who may be tried and who at times are exhausted, but who are also fiercely and rightly proud of their work, of their healthcare system, of how they, their friends and their colleagues have responded at this time of Ireland's great need," he added.
"Our healthcare system and our healthcare workers represent the very best of our country, and the country has never been prouder of our healthcare system."
I'm truly proud to be Minister for Health and to represent you and you hard work.
The Minister said the work of healthcare staff is recognised and "hugely appreciated", adding that it is "incredibly valuable for every man, woman and child in our amazing country".
"I want to thank each and every one of you for all that you do. I'm truly proud to be Minister for Health and to represent you and you hard work and your dedication and your commitment, delivering for every single one of us living in this country," he said.
Mr Donnelly's comments come as there are now 393 patients with Covid in hospital, 89 of whom are being treated in ICU.
The rollout of vaccines is also continuing today, with the HSE providing live updates regarding waiting time at walk-in vaccination centres around the country, many of which are reporting no queues, on their Twitter page.
A number of Covid-19 test centres will also be in operation over the weekend.