The Department of Health has reported 18 further Covid-related deaths and 349 new cases. 

It said that 17 of the deaths occurred this month, with one in February.

The median age of those who died was 78 years and the age range was 55 - 102 years.

It brings the total number of Covid deaths here to 4,552.

The department said 172 of today's cases were men and 177 were women, with 70% under 45 years of age. The median age is 33.

A regional breakdown of the cases shows that 156 are in Dublin, 23 in Meath, 19 in Donegal, 15 in Louth, 14 in Kildare and the remaining 122 cases are spread across all other counties. 

As of 8am today, there were 355 coronavirus patients in hospital, 88 of whom are in ICU. There has been 36 additional hospitalisations in the past 24 hours.

The hospitals with the largest number of cases are St James's with 37, the Mater with 34 and Connolly Blanchardstown with 32.

Around 16 hospitals have nine or fewer patients with Covid-19.

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New figures from the Health Service Executive show that by last Saturday, 615,934 Covid-19 vaccines have been administered. Of these, 451,589 were first doses and 164,345 were second doses.

By Saturday, 4,057 people at very high risk in Group 4 had been given a vaccine.

In Northern Ireland, one further Covid-19 death was reported today.

The Department of Health also said that 164 new cases of the virus were confirmed in the last 24-hours.

There are 176 coronavirus patients in hospital, 18 of whom are in intensive care. 

It comes as the Stormont Executive agreed a series of lockdown relaxations including a timetable for returning all schoolchildren to classes in Northern Ireland.

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The relaxation focus on outdoor gatherings and sporting activities, as well as click-and-collect services for non-essential retail outlets.

Martin urges people to enjoy 'safe St Patrick's Day'

Taoiseach Micheál Martin has appealed to the public to avoid social gatherings tomorrow and to enjoy a "safe St Patrick's Day".

Speaking outside Government Buildings, Mr Martin said that tomorrow "will present opportunities for the virus to spread and that we must resist".

He said that the presence of a more transmissible and dangerous variant of Covid-19 emphasises the need for people to remain vigilant.

Mr Martin asked that people remain focussed on helping to reduce Covid-19 case numbers, adding that "very good progress" has been made since Christmas.

"It's very important that we keep the pressure on this virus and on this variant and keep the pressure off our hospitals and protect the vulnerable," he said.

Earlier, a Dublin-based GP said he was confident that doctors will be able to resume administering the AstraZeneca vaccine in Ireland by the end of the week.

Dr Ray Walley, who is also a member of the National Covid-19 GP Liaison Committee, said the target of vaccinating everyone over 70 by mid-May is still achievable because it is based on deliveries of the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines.

Speaking on RTÉ's Morning Ireland, Dr Walley said GPs have wholeheartedly supported the temporary suspension of the AstraZeneca roll-out, because they see it as a precautionary safety alert. 

He said 11 million doses of the vaccine have been given in the UK and as a former NHS doctor, he is only too aware of the robust systems in place there to pick up difficulties. 

He said that GPs in Ireland have had very few interactions from those who have received the AstraZeneca vaccine.

Dr Walley also said that GPs have engaged with the Health Service Executive to review the vaccination system and want to see a "more structured and rational" one that will not see people disappointed.

Elsewhere, the EU's medicines regulator said there was so far "no indication" the AstraZeneca vaccine causes blood clots.

The EMA urged countries to keep using the jab after many suspended distribution despite new surges in infections.

Additional reporting Tommy Meskill