It has been another busy day of news about the Covid-19 pandemic, with Taoiseach Micheál Martin saying this morning that there may be a high level of restrictions in place until early April.

Both the HSE and the National Public Health Emergency Team held media briefings today, and here are five things we learned from them.

1. 'Long way to go' on restrictions

The comments by Taoiseach Micheál Martin on RTÉ's Morning Ireland about the continuation of restrictions  past 5 March came up at this evening's NPHET briefing.

Deputy Chief Medical Officer Dr Ronan Glynn said that while great progress has been made since the third wave peak last month, there were as many cases of Covid-19 reported last week as there were in any week in 2020.

He said he knows it is a hard message for people to take on board, given compliance with public health advice, but we have a "long way to go" still.

Dr Glynn said people need to continue to keep contacts low and work from home where possible.

2. 'Very significant improvements' reported

Professor Philip Nolan, the head of NPHET's epidemiological modelling team, said that in broad terms many indicators of disease are positive. 

He said the number of people in ICU is coming down slowly, while the number of deaths is also falling slowly.

The 14-day incidence rate per 100,000 has fallen below 300 and the reproduction number is estimated at 0.6 to 0.8

The number of new cases per day is falling at a rate of between 4% and 6%, he added.

Prof Nolan said that we are on track to have between 200 and 400 cases a day by the end of February. If that rate continues we could reach 100-300 cases a day by 15 March, he added.

3. NPHET monitoring situation in Dublin

There has been a greater proportion of cases in Dublin in recent days, according to the Deputy Chief Medical Officer.

Dr Glynn said it is something NPHET will monitor closely, but said it is too early to make any definitive call on why that is happening.

4. 14-day incidence rate halved

The 14-day incidence rate per 100,000 people also came up at the HSE's briefing, held earlier this afternoon.

HSE Chief Clinical Officer Dr Colm Henry said that the 14-day has more than halved from the preceding 14 days, when it was 766.

This represents "the greatest, most rapid fall" in 14-day incidence rates in Europe, albeit from a high level. 

He said the 5-day average is 848, which is still four times higher than at the begining of December, and 100 times higher than at the end of July last year. 

5. Third highest EU vaccine administration rate

HSE Chief Executive Paul Reid said this afternoon that 243,353 vaccine doses have been administered, with 88,453 people having received two doses.

He said this puts Ireland third in the EU in terms of doses per 100 of the population, behind Malta and Denmark, but "well above the EU average". 

Mr Reid also said that 12,000 people over the age of 85 are expected to receive their first dose of a Covid-19 vaccine next week.

These people will be vaccinated in 84 GP practices across 20 counties, with Mr Reid adding that the roll-out to this cohort will "accelerate very significantly in the week following". 

Mr Reid also said work is ongoing on vaccination centres and that the HSE is working with the Minister for Health to present the overall plan across the country.