There have been 679 more cases of Covid-19 reported by the Department of Health, as well as one more Covid-related death.

There have now been 4,136 deaths reported since the outbreak began and a total of 215,057 confirmed cases.

71% of those whose positive cases were reported today are under the age of 45, while the median age is 32.

230 of the cases are in Dublin, with 59 in Limerick, 48 in Galway, 47 in Kildare and 29 in Tipperary. The remaining 266 cases are spread across 19 other counties, with no new cases reported in Roscommon and Leitrim.

There were 744 people with Covid-19 in hospitals around the country as of 8am this morning. 148 of these patients are being treated in intensive care units, down one from yesterday evening.

The Deputy Chief Medical Officer has said that while the level of Covid-19 in the community remains very high, "we are still making progress".

"We have reported less than 1,000 cases each day this week and our seven-day average has fallen from 1,022 two weeks ago, to 862 last week, to 792 today.

"The number of people in hospital has fallen from over 1,200 two weeks ago, to 744 today," Dr Ronan Glynn said.

There were 326,475 doses of Covid-19 vaccine administered in Ireland up to Thursday 18 February. 205,955 people have received their first dose, while 120,520 of these have also gotten a second dose.

In Northern Ireland there have been 263 new cases reported by the Department of Health there, as well as four deaths.

As of Thursday 18 February a total of 466,524 vaccines had been delivered, with 436,143 people receiving their first dose. These include many of the most vulnerable. 

Latest coronavirus stories

Meanwhile this summer will be one where people socialise outdoors as much as they can and continue to limit the number of social contact, the chair of the National Public Health Emergency Team's epidemiological modelling advisory group has said.

Speaking on RTÉ's This Week, Professor Philip Nolan said social contacts in the summer would not be as limited as they are now, but warned it will be a summer of holiday and recreation at home. 

He said it is "inappropriate" to give timelines on what restrictions may be lifted if daily cases get to a certain number by a certain date.

The reason, he said, is "we cannot know that" because it is now a case of dealing with "essentially a new virus".

Prof Nolan said the variant first detected in the UK is different to what Ireland was facing last year and it is hard to tell when figures will get to below 100 daily cases. 

Acknowledging the general slowdown in progress in suppressing the virus, he said there is still some movement in the right direction. 

"The seven-day average is 800 cases a day ,and a week ago that was 930, so we are still making progress," he said.

Prof Nolan said if that continues the country will be on track to be below 100 daily cases sometime in April.

"We need to keep going and remain hopeful but it is going to take time and it is a reality."

He said the phased return to in-class education is a priority now, and when cases are substantially lower then it is looking at what areas of the economy that can resume activity.

He said "some mixing of households" is going to be required for people's mental health.

Prof Nolan also said some sectors, like retail or construction, are deemed safer than others so they will logically be opening before other sectors when it is considered safe to do so. 

Preparations are under way for the ramping up of the vaccination roll-out with 100,000 doses due to be given next week, which is up 20,000 on the number of people inoculated in the past week.

Yesterday, the head of the High Level Task Force on Covid-19 Vaccination said that Ireland is on course to give out one million doses per month over April, May and June.

"At the moment, we are expecting over a million a month in April, May and June. We are scaling up infrastructure, locations and staffing to allow us, as we have done so far, to do this, " Professor Brian MacCraith said

"It's exciting times, we'll have well over 3 million vaccines administered in over April, May and June."

He said that the public will begin to see the scale up in the coming weeks, with 80,000 doses administered last week and 100,000 planned for next week.

Govt accused of not having coherent Covid strategy

A group of scientists and academics has accused the Government of not having a coherent strategy to tackle the pandemic.

In a statement, the Independent Scientific Advocacy Group is calling for what it describes as proper resourcing and autonomy to be given to public health units around the country, and for the provision of supported hotel quarantine for all new arrivals by sea and air. 

"By not having any coherent strategy the Government has given us all of the pain without the gain. With a well-articulated strategy we can work together towards a goal, and avoid repeating the mistakes of 2020," the statement concluded.