A lot of the time a combination of the words 'Covid-19' and 'positive' are a cause for concern, but there was a lot of positive news at Covid-19 briefings by the HSE and NPHET.

Much of the positive news concerned vaccines and their effectiveness.

'Strong early evidence' of vaccine effectiveness

Professor Philip Nolan, the head of the National Public Health Emergency Team's epidemiological modelling advisory group, began his remarks at this evening's press conference by saying we continue to see "quite significant progress" against all indicators of Covid-19.

He followed that up by adding that there is also "strong early evidence" of the protective effect of the Covid-19 vaccine among frontline healthcare workers and residents and staff in long-term residential care facilities.

Prof Nolan said they have seen a "very sudden and sharp decrease" in the number of cases of Covid-19 in residential care, and also in the number of cases in healthcare workers who work in residential care settings.

Earlier, at the HSE's weekly briefing, Chief Clinical Officer Dr Colm Henry said that data shows a "collapse" in the number of cases of Covid-19 in nursing homes.

'On track' to administer 100,000 vaccine doses this week

The vaccination programme is "on track" to deliver over 100,000 inoculations this week, HSE Chief Executive Paul Reid said earlier this afternoon.

80,000 vaccines were administered across the country last week, he added.

Overall there were 359,616 vaccine doses administered by Monday 22 February. 226,291 people have received at least one dose, with 133,325 of these also receiving a second dose.

NPHET hopeful for more clarity by end of March

"We really want to give people hope," Deputy Chief Medical Officer Dr Ronan Glynn told the NPHET briefing, before adding "we have a responsibility not to give people false hope".

Dr Glynn said it would be "disingenuous" to set dates for the reopening of society at this point and may give people "false hope".

He said we need to "continue to suppress the disease through March", adding that if we can continue to suppress the disease throughout the next month it will be possible to give people more certainty heading into April.

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Early reopening could see a 'swift return' in case numbers

Dr Glynn also said that the impact on the economy and people's livelihoods and jobs may not be discussed enough at NPHET briefings.

However he said they are "very conscious" of the profound impact the restrictions have had on people around the country.

He said while it is frustrating and difficult for people, reopening sectors of society now would lead to a "very swift rebound" in case numbers.

Given the experience we have had over the past year, he said, we have to do all we can to ensure that we do not end up with another wave.

Reproduction number remains below 1

The reproduction number for Covid-19 - the rate at which the virus spreads - remains below 1, according to Professor Nolan.

He said that this week it is estimated at being between 0.6 and 0.9.

Prof Nolan said that while the number remains below 1 the spread of the coronavirus is suppressed and case numbers continue to decrease.