Chief Medical Officer, Dr Tony Holohan, has admitted that he is "concerned" that the incidence of Covid-19 is rising again following the reporting of 429 new cases today.

One further death was also notified to the Department of Health, bringing the total number of deaths to 2,124 with 76,185 confirmed cases.

The number of people in ICU remains unchanged since yesterday at 31. There are 193 Covid-19 patients in Irish hospitals with 13 additional hospitalisations in the past 24 hours.

Dr Holohan said in a statement: "Today, I am concerned that we are seeing the incidence of Covid-19 rising again.

"429 is a large number of cases by the standard of recent weeks and the five day moving average has now increased above 300 per day.

"Our efforts in Level 5 in recent weeks brought the 14-day incidence rate down to 78 per 100,000 population, put us in a position of having the lowest disease incidence in Europe and ultimately protected many people and saved many lives.

"Take today's figures as a sign that we all must now reduce our social contacts, limit our interactions with those outside our households, weigh the risks of what socialising we are planning over the next two weeks, so that we can all have as safe a Christmas as possible."

Of the cases notified today, 198 are men, 230 are women and 66% are under 45 years of age.

There were 122 cases in Dublin, 46 in Donegal, 30 in Limerick, 22 in Laois, 20 in Cork and the remaining 189 cases were spread across all other counties.

The 14-day incidence rate per 100,000 population nationally is 84.3 with the highest rates of infection in Donegal (219.9), Kilkenny (198.5), Louth (174.6) and Carlow (159.8).


Counties with the lowest rates include Kerry (20.3), Leitrim (25), Cork (26.2) and Westmeath (27).

Professor Philip Nolan, chair of the Irish Epidemiological Modelling Advisory Group said today's case numbers should be a "reminder to all of us to minimise our social contacts".

He urged people to take "every precaution during any essential contact, self-isolate and get a test promptly if symptomatic".

HSE chief executive Paul Reid, in a post on Twitter, said there were 12 days to Christmas.

"Let's make it a very safe and simple one. Please keep our contacts low, protect our families and the vulnerable but keep our spirits high," he urged.

In Northern Ireland, there have been four further Covid-19 related deaths, taking the official Department of Health death toll there to 1,124.

It also recorded 483 new cases of the virus, taking the cumulative total to 58,216.

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Earlier, the chief executive of the Health Service Executive said it still has to work through "a few of the unknowns" regarding the Covid-19 vaccine programme before its report is handed to Government on Tuesday to be considered.

Speaking on RTÉ's This Week, Paul Reid said he is aware "there is a huge desire" to know what happens next.

He said it will be "a while before the vaccine will become our first line of defence" but added it is well mapped out what needs to happen next.

"That report sets out a whole set of areas that we are focused on, so the logistics, the transportation, the security, the sequencing of the population, the identification of the sites where we will be carrying out the vaccinations, the workforce including GPs and pharmacies, the reporting arrangements, the IT system, and the data issues that we are working through so there are a few unknowns we are working through over the next short while," Mr Reid added.

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He said the HSE will be engaging with GPs once the Government has had a chance to study the report.  "There is a timeline that various workforces will come on stream."
Mr Reid said there are six different vaccines in total and they all have different transport requirements.

"I think the vaccine and what has emerged in the last few weeks is giving the country great hope and inspiration." He said communication will be key but we will need to continue with public health measures for some time.

Mr Reid said he hopes people can enjoy the All-Ireland match today and the celebrations after, but he is appealing for people to do that safely. 

The health service is asking people not to destroy the occasion or Christmas by socialising with too many people. He warned: "Mixing will cause the disease to spread very quickly."