The Department of Health has confirmed 20,110 new cases of Covid-19.

There are 682 people in hospital who have tested positive for the virus, a rise of 63 since yesterday. Of these, 86 are in ICU, down two.

Meanwhile, in Northern Ireland, a record 7,215 positive cases of Covid-19 have been notified by the Department of Health with one further death.

Chief Medical Officer Dr Tony Holohan said: "Once again, we are reporting another very high number of confirmed cases of Covid-19 in Ireland. The number of people in hospital with [the disease] is continuing to increase.

"I know many people have cancelled or postponed planned social and family events, not just for New Year's Eve, but right throughout the Christmas period.

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"The occasions in life we most look forward to have been changed utterly by this pandemic. However, these collective efforts are necessary to protect ourselves, our loved ones and our health service."

Dr Holohan said it it was timely to remember frontline healthcare workers "who are now facing into a third year of pandemic response" and thank them for their efforts .

He also recalled those who have "sadly died with Covid-19 in Ireland since the beginning of this pandemic, along with their families and loved ones who are grieving their loss".

He added that there were "many reasons for cautious optimism" in 2022.

"Advances in science and public health, including the development of new treatments like antivirals and monoclonal antibodies and the continued evolution of our understanding of this virus, give us grounds to hope that 2022 may be a better year from a Covid point of view than either 2020 or 2021."

Pressure on the PCR testing system is continuing around the country today, amid the high demand for Covid-19 tests.

There were no appointments available at swabbing centres through the online self-referral portal on the HSE website today.

The advice is that people should keep checking the system, as slots may become available.

Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly said that anyone who has a positive antigen test result, but cannot get a PCR test slot, should immediately isolate at home and continue to take antigen tests.

He said that while there are delays, these people will get a PCR test, adding that changes are currently being made to increase testing capacity.

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Mr Donnelly told RTÉ's News at One that people do not need to await the result of a PCR test before registering their positive antigen test on the HSE website.

The HSE said the facility to self-register positive antigen results should be available from Monday, 3 January.

Mr Donnelly said that he understands the frustration felt by many who cannot access a PCR test.

He said that it is his understanding that a positive antigen test cannot be used for work or social welfare purposes and that a confirmatory PCR test is required in these situations.

However, changes to the system have since been announced by Heather Humphreys.

Mr Donnelly also said people should follow Dr Holohan's advice and reduce the number of other households they meet indoors "to the greatest extent possible".

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Speaking on RTÉ's Morning Ireland earlier, Dr Holohan said a "substantial proportion" of Covid patients in hospital and ICU are not fully vaccinated.

He said that even though Ireland has done well in terms of vaccination, it is still really important for people to come forward if they have not yet had a vaccine or booster.

Meanwhile, the National Ambulance Service has moved to surge capacity, following what it says is major pressure on the service in recent days, in part due to Covid-19.

Brendan Flynn, Chairperson of its Representative Association, said the service has seen an increase in pressure, particularly over the past two years.

Speaking on RTÉ's Morning Ireland, Mr Flynn said said it is nothing new to see an increase in demand over the Christmas period and into the New Year, but Covid has "exacerbated the crisis".

The service has moved to level 3 of surge capacity, meaning staff on annual leave are being asked to cancel their leave if possible, while those on sick leave are being asked to try to return as soon as they can.

"The ambulance service has seen a significant increase in calls over the past number of years, and it's down to chronic under-investment within the service," he said.

"We just need more resources, it's as simple as that. Compared to other international services, we just don't have the staff numbers to meet the demand."

Mr Flynn said the service will do everything it can to respond to all emergency calls and will prioritise life-threatening emergency calls, but lower calls could be "left waiting a significant amount of time".

He urged the public to consider all options before calling for an ambulance, and said not all emergencies require an ambulance.

"But that doesn't mean we don't want people to call ambulances for life-threatening emergencies," he added.