Ireland has confirmed 16,428 new cases of Covid-19 on Wednesday, representing the highest daily figure since the pandemic began just under two years ago.
As of 8am today, 568 Covid-19 patients are hospitalised, of whom 93 are in ICU.
There has been a total of 5,912 deaths related to Covid-19 notified in Ireland, the Department of Health has confirmed. This incudes 22 deaths newly notified in the past week (since last Wednesday).
Close to half of the latest swabs taken for the virus returned as positive, with 16,959 positives or a 45 per cent positivity rate from the 37,503 tests conducted.
Swab positivity rates have soared to record levels as of late, with the Republic’s seven-day test positivity rate now standing at 34.9 per cent.
A previous record number of daily cases was recorded at the weekend on Christmas Day, when 13,765 new infections were reported.
Hospitalisations are continuing to rise, with 568 Covid-19 patients currently in hospitals around the country - up 47 from Tuesday. Of these, 93 people are in intensive care.
It comes as Tánaiste Leo Varadkar said that infections fuelled by the Omicron variant will remain very high for the "next few days" but should peak "in the next week or so".
The Omicron wave is likely to be "overcome" faster than previous waves of the virus, Mr Varadkar said, although he cautioned that January will be a "difficult" month.
His comments came after HSE chief executive Paul Reid said the virus is now "running rife" in the community, but added there were "early signs of hope" from GPs that Omicron may not be as severe as previous variants of the virus.
Dr Ray Walley, a member of the National Covid-19 GP Liaison Committee, said on Wednesday that most people with the Omicron variant are experiencing mild symptoms.
Earlier, the HSE’s chief operations officer Anne O’Connor called on the public to get their booster vaccine and to behave as if they have the virus if they have symptoms or a positive antigen test.
People aged 30-39 can get a booster vaccine as of today at walk-in clinics or by booking online. Boosters are also available to those aged 16-29 who received the one-shot Janssen vaccine, in line with guidance from the National Immunisation Advisory Council (Niac).
Ms O’Connor also defended the PCR testing system, pointing out that between 30,000-40,000 tests were being carried out every day which was an unprecedented level.
She said she understood if people were upset that they could not get an appointment, but the system “can only do so much”.