Ireland logged 10,600 further cases of Covid-19 on Saturday, as the number of people hospitalised with the virus fell for the fifth day in a row.
6,689 cases were confirmed by PCR test, while 3,911 positive antigen test results were uploaded to the HSE portal. The Department of Health has cautioned that self-registered test results are not directly comparable with laboratory PCR-confirmed cases.
The latest figures come amid a significant stride back to normality in the State, after the majority of Covid restrictions were lifted at 6am this morning.
There are 836 patients currently in hospital with the virus, a drop of 56 on yesterday, and a significant reduction on the recent peak of 1,063 seen on January 10th.
The number of patients being treated in intensive care units (ICU) has also fallen to its lowest level since November 8th, now standing at 78, a drop of 10 patients over the last 24 hours.
Stable or falling hospitalisations were a major factor in the decision of public health officials to recommend the easing of almost all Covid restrictions, according to a letter sent to Government by Dr Tony Holohan.
The country’s chief medical officer set out the rationale behind the lifting of almost all restrictions in the letter, saying the Omicron variant produced a lesser burden of severe disease amid a peak in cases two to three times higher than reported.
Sweeping relaxations announced by the Government on Friday evening came into effect at 6am on Saturday and saw an 8pm curfew on the hospitality sector lifted, with pubs and restaurants able to trade restriction-free.
Covid certification passes will also no longer be required to gain entry to hospitality, entertainment and leisure outlets.
Live events and sporting events can return to full capacity audiences and guidance advising limits on household visits has been removed.
Workers across Ireland will return to offices on a staggered basis from Monday.
Only a small number of restrictions remain in place, including the continued requirement to wear masks in settings such as in shops, schools and on public transport; self-isolation rules; and the use of Covid passes for international travel.
‘Time to be ourselves again’
In a televised address on Friday, Taoiseach Micheál Martin told the nation it was “time to be ourselves again”.
However, he warned that the coronavirus pandemic is not over, adding he could not promise "there won’t be further twists in this pandemic requiring different decisions in the future.”
“Spring is coming. I don’t know if I’ve ever looked forward to one as much as I’m looking forward to this one,” he said.
“Humans are social beings and we Irish are more social than most.
“As we look forward to this spring, we need to see each other again. We need to see each other smile. We need to sing again.
“As we navigate this new phase of Covid, it is time to be ourselves again.”
-Additional reporting by Press Association.