Ireland is in the grip of an Omicron wave of coronavirus, with most counties in the State recording an infection rate of at least 1,000 cases per 100,000 people.
The capital continues to be the worst-affected area of the country, with one in every 52 people in Co Dublin testing positive for Covid in the latest two weeks.
Dublin has by far the highest 14-day incidence rate in the Republic, at 1,930 cases per 100,000 people. This is followed by Louth, at 1,786, and Kilkenny, at just under 1,700.
Some 22 counties have rates of at least 1,000, while the Covid infection rate in Mayo is the lowest, at 780 cases per 100,000 people.
The nationwide five-day moving average of Covid cases has more than doubled over the past 10 days to 8,788, as the highly transmissible Omicron variant now accounts for at least 83 per cent of cases.
The Ards and North Down council area has the highest 14-day infection rate in the North, at 1,824 cases per 100,000, followed by Derry City and Strabane with a rate of 1,817.
Meanwhile, Covid inpatient numbers in the State increased by almost 50 on St Stephen's Day as the Republic recorded another daily total of confirmed cases in excess of 10,000.
As of Sunday morning, 426 patients were in hospital with the virus – a rise of 48 from Christmas Day.
The number requiring treatment in intensive care increased from 87 to 91 in the same 24-hour period.
A further 10,404 confirmed cases of virus were reported in the Republic on Sunday.
A record 13,765 cases of the virus were notified on Christmas Day, up from the 11,182 announced on Friday.
The latest figures were outlined after chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan urged people to reduce their contacts in response to the rising case numbers.
The Department of Health said “large volumes” of case numbers were anticipated over the coming period.
Dr Holohan emphasised that Omicron was more transmissible than Delta and urged that everyone continued to reduce contacts and avoid crowded places as much as possible.
“We know that this variant is more transmissible than even the highly transmissible Delta variant,” he said.
“As such, please do not socialise or meet indoors with people from other households.”
Dr Holohan added: “Avoid crowded places including retail environments.
“Choose to shop online where possible, queue outside and leave any retail environment that does not feel safe and that is not adhering to the public health guidance – implementing social distancing measures and queuing system, limiting numbers in-store and staff wearing masks correctly (covering nose, mouth and chin).
“If you are yet to receive a booster dose of Covid-19 vaccine, then you should take every measure you can to protect yourself until you are eligible to receive it.
“This includes avoiding risky environments and keeping your contacts as low as possible.
“All of the available evidence indicates that a booster vaccine will offer good protection against infection with the Omicron variant.
“If you have travelled to Ireland from overseas it is important that you take an antigen test every day for five days.
“If anyone experiences any symptoms of Covid-19, however mild, then it is important to self-isolate and arrange a PCR test.
“Our test centres are very busy at the moment due to the high incidence of Covid-19 across the country, however, it is important that you continue to self-isolate until you receive the result of your PCR test and further information from the HSE.” – Additional reporting: PA