The HSE is planning to use antigen testing for outbreaks and potentially for close contacts, chief executive Paul Reid has said.

"We are planning to utilise antigen testing for outbreaks where they are very well proven and potentially also for close contacts," Mr Reid said.

Speaking on RTÉ's This Week, Mr Reid said the health service is "extremely busy" as a result of a backlog caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.

"There is a delay factor where people haven't come forward during Covid," he said.

Mr Reid also said the cyber attack has caused a delay in GPs accessing diagnostics which is now being rectifies.

"We are getting back to non-Covid care and addressing the backlog," he said.

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Addressing the delay in providing second vaccinations for people aged between 60 and 70, Mr Reid said: "The fact that people have been waiting is based on vaccination policy reducing from 16 weeks to four weeks."

Mr Reid said that age group will be fully vaccinated "by the end of next week and early into the following week at the latest".

He said he welcomes the Government's "planned and pragmatic approach" to easing restrictions.

Mr Reid said long-term restrictions and lockdowns are not beneficial to the health service.

Dept of Health reports 576 new cases

There have been 576 cases of Covid-19 reported by the Department of Health.

There are 16 people with Covid-19 being treated in intensive care units, unchanged from yesterday. Overall there are 58 people who have tested positive for Covid-19 being treated in Irish hospitals.

The HSE has said the daily case numbers may change due to future data review, validation and update.

A further 605 positive cases of Covid-19 have been reported in Northern Ireland, the Department of Health there has said.

There was one further coronavirus-linked death reported in the past 24 hours.