The number of patients in ICU with coronavirus is now at 46, the lowest level this year and 79% down on the peak of 221 in late January.

It is also the fewest number of people with Covid-19 in ICU since 31 December, when 42 needed critical care treatment.

Health Service Executive CEO Paul Reid, in a post on Twitter, also said that 179 patients with the disease are being treated in hospitals this morning.

This the lowest number of people with coronavirus in hospital since 10 September last year.

Mr Reid said: "The most important target of the vaccination programme is reducing sickness, hospitalisations, ICU and mortality.

"Thankfully our Covid-19 hospitalisations are now down to 179 from a peak of over 2,000 and ICU down to 46. Let's not lose sight of the ultimate aim."

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Meanwhile, Covid-19 vaccinations for people aged between 65 and 69 began today. This follows a surge in registrations over the weekend via the HSE's online portal.

So far, more than 100,000 registrations have been made for Covid vaccines on the portal.

Based on supplies, the HSE then hopes to proceed to those aged between 60 and 64.

In the coming days, GPs, vaccination centres and the National Ambulance Service are focused on administering jabs to the over 70s, housebound patients, and the medically vulnerable.

The Central Statistics Office puts the number of people aged 65 to 69 years at 224,000. There are 483,000 people aged 60 to 69 years.

The HSE has said it expects that all over 70s will have received their first dose of vaccination by the end of April.

It said that the week starting next Monday, 26 April, is the final week of deliveries of dose one for patients in the over 70s group.

A previous target was that all over 70s would have their first dose of Covid-19 vaccine by mid-April and their second dose by mid-May.

In a reply to a question from Peadar Tóibín of Aontú, the HSE said it was unable to say the exact date when all over 85s were vaccinated.

HSE Chief Paul Reid said it looks likely that the online registration for vaccinations for those in their early 60s will open up by the end of this week.

Paul Reid said the take up and registration for the online system for the 65-69 cohort was beyond the HSE's expectation and that vaccinations of that age group had gotten underway at 26 vaccination centres around the country today.

He said there had been "really good progress" and that this is a "great moment to start reaching out to the wider population".

Mr Reid said any decision to widen the gap between vaccines will be clinically led and that the HSE will realign and adjust the vaccination programme as they had before if the need arises.

Paul Reid also said there had been some "really good trends" when it came to the number of people with Covid-19 in ICU and hospital.

1.2 million people have now been vaccinated.

22.5% of the population have received their first dose including 95,000 people in the medically vulnerable group.

Mr Reid said while the trends were positive it is important that people stick with the plan in the next few weeks to ensure there is no turn in cases again.

Taoiseach Micheál Martin said he is hopeful the pace of vaccinations will pick up this week as the country is now ''moving in the right direction''.

Mr Martin said 140,000 doses in total were administered last week.

With vaccine supplies set to increase, Mr Martin said the roll-out is gaining momentum, giving the Government more options to reopen parts of society next month.

The aim is to have those aged between 60 and 69 vaccinated with the first dose by the end of May.

More than 26 vaccination centres will open across the country by the end of next week.

Latest figures show that 851,821 people had received a first dose of Covid-19 vaccine by last Saturday.

There were also 351,802 people who had been fully vaccinated.

The HSE said that the total number of doses administered was over 1.2 million. Of those in the very high risk category, 94,400 have received a vaccine dose.

The HSE is planning to vaccinate around 170,000 people this week.