A specialist in public health medicine at HSE Mid-West has said Ireland is "at a very precarious spot" in the fight against Covid-19 and urged people to remain vigilant in the coming weeks as relaxations are eased.

Dr Anne Dee said that given the "inevitable surge" of the Delta variant in Ireland, people should "hang on for a few weeks" and continue to meet outdoors, wear masks and wash their hands to "hopefully avoid the worst of what is possible".

Speaking on RTÉ's Morning Ireland, she said that transmission of the Delta strain remains high among young people and some young people and children have been hospitalised with symptoms of Covid-19.

Current cases are among mainly younger people who contract the virus at social gatherings, which drive it into workplaces and family situations.

Dr Dee said the big risk factors for spread of the disease remains the combination of alcohol and crowds.

She said that it is extremely transmissible and while more activities are now permitted, she encouraged people to stay safe within the bounds of what is permitted, by maintaining social distancing and not to be indoors consuming alcohol when not vaccinated.

"We will get there but need people not to engage when they think it is unsafe".

Dr Dee said that even outdoor gatherings carry a risk, which will increase when indoor gatherings are permitted and the transmissibility of the Delta variant was evident in various outbreaks.

In one outbreak, 41 of 47 individuals living in a shared space contracted the virus, she said, adding that good practices in workplaces prevents the spread of the virus, including hand sanitation, good ventilation and social distancing.

From today, people aged 18 and over can register for an mRNA - Pfizer or Moderna - vaccine, which means all adults living in Ireland can now register for a vaccine.

People aged 18 to 34 can also opt in to receive the AstraZeneca or Janssen vaccines earlier depending on supplies.

Health Service Executive CEO Paul Reid said that almost 5.3 million vaccines have now been administered with over 79% of adults partially vaccinated and over 65% fully vaccinated.

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Earlier, the CEO of the Saolta Hospital Group said he believes that Ireland is at the start of a fourth wave, but the impact on mortality and hospitals is unknown right now.

Tony Canavan said Covid and non-Covid streams are in place in hospitals and teams have checked the procedures that are in place following an outbreak of the virus at Mayo University Hospital.

Speaking on the same programme, he said that the outbreak there is the first since January, but the cause of it is not yet clear.

Mr Canavan also said that the experience across hospitals in the group is that patients exhibiting mild Covid symptoms are being admitted for other reasons, and Covid cases are being picked up through the screening process.

He said that the ages of those who have tested positive range from people in their 20s to their 90s, and some are fully vaccinated, some are partially vaccinated and some are unvaccinated.

In most cases they are displaying very mild symptoms, he said.

Hospitals in the group include Letterkenny University Hospital, University Hospital Galway, Mayo University Hospital and Sligo University Hospital.

Meanwhile, the President of Epidemiology and Public Health at the Royal Society of Medicine London has said that not only should vulnerable children now be vaccinated, but all children should be offered a jab.

Speaking on RTÉ's Today with Claire Byrne, Dr Gabriel Scally said he is worried that there is a danger of children being "neglected" at this stage of the pandemic.

He said children are at risk of becoming infected and of developing Long Covid.

"It's not just an issue of vulnerable children. All children are vulnerable because we know they can get Long Covid. We're not talking enough about Long Covid," he added.