Ireland's Covid-19 death toll has surpassed 4,000, following confirmation of a further 57 deaths from the Department of Health, as well as 650 additional cases.

Thirty-four of these deaths occurred this month, with 21 in January, one in November and another in December.

The total number of deaths now stands at 4,036, while the cumulative total of cases since the pandemic began stands at 211,751.

Of the cases notified today, 65% were under the age of 45, with the median age being 37.

Geographically, 192 cases were in Dublin, 53 were in Galway, 50 in Meath, 46 in Kildare, 46 in Cork and the remaining 263 cases are spread across 19 other counties, with no cases in Kerry and Leitrim.

There are currently 831 patients in hospital with the virus, of which 154 are in intensive care.

The 14-day incidence rate of the virus in Ireland now stands at 261.7.

Counties with the highest incidence rate include Monaghan, Offaly, Dublin, and Galway, while counties with the lowest incidence rate include Clare, Roscommon, Kilkenny and Kerry. 

Deputy Chief Medical Officer Dr Ronan Glynn said the situation remains "precarious", despite "great progress", adding that 90% of recent cases are the variant first identified in the UK.

"The increased transmissibility of this variant is apparent in the current profile of the disease in households, with one in three household contacts of a confirmed case testing positive for Covid-19," he said.

"This underlines the need for people to exercise caution in households and other settings. In particular, people should isolate immediately on experiencing any symptoms and contact their GP."

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Early Years' classes considered for phased school reopening 

Taoiseach Micheál Martin has told a meeting of his Parliamentary Party that "the start of March" is likely to be the date for the phased reopening of schools. 

Mr Martin also said that Leaving Cert students and 5th year students, as well as junior infants, senior infants and 1st class students, were under consideration. 

The start date for the phased reopening of schools will be regularly evaluated to assess the impact on virus prevalence in the community. 

It is understood that this would mean a return from 1 March. 

Meanwhile, the number of outbreaks has reduced slightly in the last week to 200, compared with 209 the previous week.

The biggest rise was seen in private houses/family outbreaks, which increased to 91 last week, compared with 71 the week before.

Workplace outbreaks reduced, as did outbreaks in hospitals and nursing homes. There was a small rise in retail outbreaks from two to six last week.

In Northern Ireland, the Department of Health said another six people have died with Covid-19.

A further 297 people have tested positive for Covid-19 there, the department added.

There are 434 people in hospital with the disease, with 53 in intensive care and 45 of those on ventilators.

The average seven-day infection rate per 100,000 for Northern Ireland is 108.8.

The council area with highest rate is Armagh, Banbridge and Craigavon on 203.1, while the lowest remains Fermanagh and Omagh on 44.5.

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The HSE said it met its vaccinations target for last week (beginning Monday, 8 February).

The roll-out of the Covid-19 vaccination programme for those aged 85 and older is continuing at dozens of GP surgeries around the country.

The prospect of a fourth vaccine is looking more real with the Johnson & Johnson product - that requires one injection - expected to be approved by the European Medicines Agency for use next month.

The latest figures show that 180,192 first doses of Covid-19 vaccines had been administered up to last Sunday. The number of second doses is 91,750. It brings the total doses given to 271,942.

On Sunday, 2,700 first doses were given to patients, plus ten second doses.

The breakdown of vaccines that have been administered is:
Pfizer-BioNTech - 254,365
AstraZeneca - 14,185
Moderna - 3,392