From a warning that unvaccinated people are being disproportionately affected by serious illness from Covid-19, to plans for extending the vaccination programme to children aged 5-11, here are six things we learned from the latest Health Service Executive briefing on the coronavirus pandemic.

Unvaccinated people disproportionately represented in hospital figures

HSE Chief Executive Paul Reid has said that hospitals and clinical teams are under extreme pressure from the levels of Covid-19 infection.

Mr Reid said that people who are not fully vaccinated are accounting for a disproportionate share of the people being treated in hospital, and particularly of those needing treatment in intensive care units.

49% of people in hospital with Covid-19 are fully vaccinated. 46% are not fully vaccinated, while the vaccination status of the other 5% is not known.

In ICU, 47% of current patients are fully vaccinated, 1% partially vaccinated, and 52% are unvaccinated.

89.55% of people over the age of 12 in Ireland are fully vaccinated.

People urged to isolate if symptomatic

Mr Reid reiterated that it is important that people who are experiencing symptoms of Covid-19 stay home and arrange a PCR test.

He added that if people test negative, they should still isolate until 48 hours after their symptoms clear.

Sacrifices acknowledged

Mr Reid said people have been curtailing planned activities, and working from home in greater numbers, which is helping to slow the spread of Covid-19.

He said the health service appreciates the sacrifices people are making. However, he warned that transmission is still very high, and said this collective effort from the public to minimise transmission of Covid-19 will be needed for some time.

HSE scaling up testing capacity, but demand remains high

Mr Reid said the community testing capacity had been 15,000 a day, but it has recently been increased to 20,000, and that up to 26,000 PCR tests have been completed on some days.

He said the HSE is availing of support from the Defence Forces and from private testing operators to increase testing capacity.

He said it is nevertheless difficult to meet demand, and it is "extremely challenging" to meet all the referrals.

He acknowledged that it is frustrating for people who have to wait for tests to become available.

Vaccines helping avoid 'devastating' scenario

HSE Chief Clinical Officer Dr Colm Henry said the whole healthcare system is under strain at the moment.

He said close to 6,000 staff are out on Covid-related leave at the moment, placing additonal strain on an already exhausted workforce.

He said if the public had not embraced Covid-19 vaccinations the way they have the situation in hospitals could have been even worse.

Planning for vaccinations for 5-11 cohort

Welcoming the decision by the European Medicines Agency to extend approval for the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine to children aged 5-11, Mr Reid said the recommendation will now be considered by Ireland's National Immunisation Advisory Committee.

Mr Reid said vaccine delivery for younger age groups around Europe isn't expected until towards the end of December.

He said that in the meantime the HSE will begin planning for vaccinations in this age group, assuming it is approved here.