The Omicron wave of Covid-19 is causing further "unsustainable" disruption to a range of services including healthcare and pharmacies.
However, there is growing optimism among public health officials over the variant’s limited capacity to cause severe disease and death, after a meeting of the National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet) on Thursday said to be “generally upbeat”.
The European Centre for Disease Control (ECDC) said the situation remained serious with further pressure on health services expected.
There are also concerns that compliance with restrictions may slip amid impressions that Omicron is milder, along with concern that over-30s are not receiving Covid-19 booster vaccines in large enough numbers.
Doctors have warned the Government that their stocks of vaccines may go out of date, which will likely lead to a renewed push for those aged 20-40 to get boosted, The Irish Times reports.
The record number of cases is causing serious staffing issues for a number of industries.
On Friday, the Psychiatric Nurses’ Association said the latest surge had resulted in the closure or curtailment of some services. The association said overtime and staff goodwill were the two factors holding rosters together.
Darragh O’Loughlin, secretary general of the Irish Pharmacy Union, said the Covid crisis had resulted in “significant pressures” on pharmacies.
“Each pharmacy will strive to maintain services to patients and the public, but reduced hours and temporary closures cannot be ruled out.”
Meanwhile, dozens of additional ambulances and crews from the voluntary sector have made themselves available to serve acute hospital patients. This comes following an appeal from the Health Service Executive.
On Thursday, 260 regular National Ambulance Service staff were absent due to Covid.
Liam O’Dwyer, secretary general of the Irish Red Cross, told The Irish Times that on Friday seven of its 93 ambulances had to deal with shortfalls.
There will also be disruption to court sittings in the next few weeks due to the “unprecedented” number of judges, lawyers and witnesses unable to attend courthouses because of Covid-19.
The Irish Prison Service has said all physical family visits will be temporarily suspended from January 10th until January 24th as community transmission of the virus is at very high levels in prisons.
Despite the Omicron wave, The Irish Times reports that Nphet is focused on mapping a route out of current restrictions rather than additional Covid measures.
Senior health officials believe that revised guidance on removing the need to isolate for close contacts will be forthcoming from the ECDC next week.
Sources said it is likely that contacts may be asked to take antigen tests or wear higher-grade masks.
With the current severe pressure on the testing system, Government sources indicated that there may be changes to allow people to upload the result of an antigen test online rather than looking for a confirmatory PCR test.