It is reasonable to expect to see high numbers of Covid-19 related deaths in the coming days, the Deputy Chief Medical Officer has said.

Dr Ronan Glynn made the prediction on RTÉ's Six One News after the Department of Health reported 46 more Covid-19 related deaths this evening.

Two of the deaths reported today happened in December 2020, but the remaining 44 occurred this month.

The Department has also reported 3,086 more cases of Covid-19.

There has now been a total of 2,397 virus-related deaths in Ireland and 155,591 confirmed cases.

It comes as the number of patients with Covid-19 being treated in intensive care units has passed the peak figure reached in the first wave of the pandemic, with 158 people receiving treatment in ICUs.

There have been 128 additional hospitalisations in the last 24 hours, with a total of 1,692 people with Covid-19 now receiving hospital treatment.

Liam Woods, National Director of Acute Operations with the Health Service Executive, said the intensive care figure could increase to 300 by early next week.

Speaking on RTÉ's Prime Time, Mr Woods said the demand on ICUs will exceed supply, but it depends on the trajectory of the virus.

He said there are plans to expand capacity, new ICU beds have been opened, and that private hospitals are already being used for patients.

Dr Glynn said the high number of deaths today is a consequence of the very significant increase in cases that have been reported over the past couple of weeks.

He said that since 1 January approximately one in three people who have been hospitalised and admitted to critical care has been under the age of 65.

The Deputy CMO said all groups need to listen to the message and stay at home so that the kind of numbers being reported this evening do not continue for a prolonged period of time.

However, he added that it is too early to say how long the current restrictions need to be kept in place.

The Chief Medical Officer has said that we are "seeing the effect of the recent surge of infections" reflected in the number of deaths reported.

Dr Tony Holohan said that that unfortunately these "figures are likely to continue for the next period of time."

He called on people to stay home "out of respect of those who have lost their lives and those currently in hospital or ICU".

1,425 of the cases reported today are men, with 1,642 also testing positive. 54% are under 45 years of age, and the median age is 42 years old.

604 of the cases are in Galway, with 574 in Dublin, 466 in Mayo, 187 in Cork and 138 in Limerick. The remaining 1,117 cases are spread across all other counties.

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Thirteen hospitals are now listed as having no intensive care beds free.

There are 30 ICU beds available in the system for adult patients, according to overnight figures from the Health Service Executive.

Cork University Hospital is caring for 140 Covid-19 patients, the highest number in the country.

There are 124 patients with Covid-19 at University Hospital Limerick; St Vincent's University Hospital in Dublin has 117; and University Hospital Galway has 116 patients with the virus.

Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital in Drogheda has 103 Covid-19 patients, more than double the number of patients being treated last week.

In Cavan General Hospital, 64 patients are being treated for Covid-19, compared to 26 last week, with three of those in ICU.

The Minister for Health, Stephen Donnelly,  has said the first doses of the Moderna vaccine have arrived in Ireland.

Posting on Twitter, he said the first delivery was a small one, but said every vaccine counts.

There has been a notable reduction in coronavirus outbreaks in private homes, according to the latest figures, although the overall number of outbreaks has increased in the last week.

In the week to 9 January, there were 18 private house/family outbreaks and just two private house/general outbreaks.

It compares with 624 private house/family outbreaks seven weeks ago.

The latest figures from the Health Protection Surveillance Centre show there were 52 outbreaks in nursing homes in the last week, and 49 in other residential institutions.

There were also 26 workplace outbreaks reported last week, the highest number in seven weeks.

Overall, there were 226 outbreaks reported in the week to 9 January, compared with 154 outbreaks the previous week.

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Patients presenting are 'a lot sicker'

A Consultant in Emergency Medicine in CUH has said the type of patient coming in with Covid-19 over the past few days is "a lot sicker".

Speaking on RTÉ's Drivetime, Conor Deasy said they are under "intense pressure" with 147 patients who are Covid positive in the hospital, the largest number in any hospital in the country.

He said they are admitting more patients whose lungs are failing, who are struggling for breath, who need emergency resuscitation and ICU level care.

On Sunday they had three patients with Covid who were on life support machines and today they have nine, he said.

Staffing a major challenge for hospitals

Meanwhile, the HSE's National Clinical Advisor and Group Lead Acute Hospitals said staffing hospitals is a major challenge and there are currently more than 4,000 staff members out of work because they have either contracted Covid-19 or are a close contact.

Dr Vida Hamilton said asking staff who are close contacts, but not displaying symptoms, to return to work will be "very much a last resort".

Speaking on RTÉ's Morning Ireland, she said the HSE is utilising every resource available to it and as much recruitment as possible was carried out over the last ten months.

Around 80% of the coronavirus can be managed safely at home, according to the Covid-19 lead with the Irish College of General Practitioners.

Speaking on RTÉ's Today with Claire Byrne, Dr Nuala O'Connor said GPs and virus assessment hubs are central to supporting the hospital system by ensuring that people are referred to hospital only if "absolutely necessary".

She said people can suddenly become very unwell with Covid-19 and there can be a very short window before they become quite compromised and will need hospital treatment.

A consultant geriatrician at Tallaght University Hospital said doctors make difficult decisions all the time, but the public is seeing this for the first time, and on a much greater scale.

Professor Rónán Collins said putting patients on ventilators will not work for everyone, but there is a "skilled decision-making" process involved, which is "not in the gift of one doctor", but it is decided by multidisciplinary teams and based on the whole story of the patient.

Speaking on the same programme, he said the average time that people require ventilation is seven to ten days.

Prof Collins said the patient's view is always sought where possible, "and many will stop short and said they would not like intensive or aggressive treatment if they deteriorate".