For the first time since March 2020, St James's Hospital in Dublin has reported having no patients with Covid-19.

The hospital, which is located in Dublin's south inner city, is one of the largest in the country.

Prior to today, St James's has been treating people with the virus every day for over a year.

Since then, it has regularly had the highest number of patients in hospital with the coronavirus, a figure which was in excess of 100 people on a number of days during the peak of the third wave earlier this year.

In a tweet, Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly described it as "really great news from St James's Hospital."

At today's HSE briefing, its Chief Operating Officer Anne O'Connor described as "huge" the impact on hospital services of not having any Covid-19 patients.

She said the site was under significant pressure last year with a "large number of staff just working on Covid wards".

Speaking to RTÉ's News at One, consultant respiratory physician Dr Brian Kent described it as a "relief as much as anything".

"It's good news and hopefully a sign that things are going in the right direction," he said.

"We're seeing that there's very substantial amounts of the virus circulating in the community. But from the situation in January where we'd close to 200 inpatients in the hospital and many of those in intensive care, we've gone from now having a handful to none at all."

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Dr Kent said one likely major contributory factor has been the roll-out of the Covid-19 vaccine programme, and those at most risk of getting seriously ill from Covid being vaccinated.

Last year, RTÉ Investigates was provided with exclusive access to the hospital to show the realities of life and death on Ireland's pandemic frontline.

In many areas of the hospital, activity slowed down dramatically, as procedures were cancelled or postponed and as people tried to avoid hospital where possible for fear of contracting Covid-19 in the early days of the pandemic.

From the beginning of March until the end of May 2020, alone, there were 79 deaths associated with Covid-19 recorded in St James's Hospital.