Health Service Executive CEO Paul Reid has said it is difficult to predict when Covid-19 cases will hit their peak over the winter. 

However, he said, the HSE does not see the previously predicted volume of cases and patients happening at the moment, given the positive trends emerging in the past week. 

Speaking on RTÉ's Morning Ireland, Mr Reid said there are concerns over the "multi-lag effect", where increased number of cases in younger people progresses into a rise in cases among more vulnerable people in the over 65 age group. 

He said there has been a steady trend in increased hospitalisations and cases in intensive care units over the past number of weeks, despite positive trends such as the reduced positivity rate and reduced social contacts. 

He said the modelling that was done for the National Public Health Emergency Team showed, that if the country had continued on the trend it was at, "the numbers of cases we would see rising through November would've put us at huge risk". 

He said the effects of Level 3 measures are being seen and "now what's happened over the past week, we are seeing that core beginning to hold, and hopefully with everything we're doing we bring that down further and we don't see those predicted volumes". 

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However, he said caution is needed given what is happening in Europe, where they are seeing higher infection rates and hospitalisations of older people.

Mr Reid said if we can sustain the progress made in the last week, and "turn the trend" over the coming weeks, it would give "significant" protection to the health service over the winter.  

Asked if the HSE is prepared to provide extra supports for nursing homes hit with outbreaks, Mr Reid said nursing homes are high risk and there were about 25 they would be giving a range of supports to.

He said four nursing homes would be on higher risk at the moment in terms of wider supports, and in a small number of cases where they have to provide additional staff. 

Meanwhile, the Minister for Finance said moving to a lower level of restrictions in December would "depend on our continued efforts in dealing" with Covid-19.

Speaking on RTÉ's News at One, Paschal Donohoe said there "are many signals due to the huge effort of the Irish people, we are making progress in dealing with the disease and avoiding some of the things we were very concerned about a few weeks ago." 

Mr Donohoe said it will take time to see if the country can move to a lower level of restrictions. 

He added it is important that Level 5 continues to be implemented to "strengthen our ability" to move to a lower level.

There are 327 patients with Covid-19 in hospitals and, of these, 42 are being treated in intensive care units, which is the highest number of patients with Covid-19 in ICUs since 28 May, when there were 45 patients in ICU. 

However, the highest figure was 155 in mid-April. 

There were 23 new admissions over the past 24 hours, while 26 patients were discharged. 

As of 8pm last night, there were 39 ICU beds available in the hospital system.

Naas General Hospital has the highest number of Covid positive patients at 26. 

It is followed by Tallaght University Hospital with  23; Cork University Hospital and Our Lady of Lourdes in Drogheda, each with 22; Beaumont and Connolly Hospital each have 21 Covid-19 patients and there are 20 patients with the virus at University Hospital Limerick. 

The number of cases of Covid-19 in Ireland since the start of the pandemic has exceeded 60,000.

An additional 866 cases were announced yesterday evening and six more people with the virus had died, taking the total number Covid-related deaths to more than 1,900.

The number of new daily Covid-19 cases has been below 1,000 on six out of the last seven days.

The 866 cases confirmed yesterday took the total for the last week to 5,861 cases, which is more than 2,200 lower than the previous week.

It means almost 60,300 cases have been detected here since the pandemic began.

The 14-day incidence rate per 100,000 of the population has reduced again after falling for a third day in a row to 292.1.

Chief Medical Officer Dr Tony Holohan has again appealed to people to behave as though you are a close contact and to stay at home, except for essential reasons.

He also said it is vitally important that anyone experiencing symptoms self-isolates and phones their GP.

Additional reporting Fergal O'Brien, Laura Hogan