The Department of Health has been notified of two further deaths associated with Covid-19 and 624 additional cases of the virus.

There has been a total of 4,653 Covid-19 related deaths in Ireland and 233,937 confirmed cases.

The number of patients with Covid-19 in intensive care is down three to 64.

The number of people in ICU with the disease has now reduced by over two thirds (70%) since a peak of 221 on 24 January.

There are 304 confirmed cases of coronavirus in hospitals compared to 2,020 on 18 January, a reduction of almost 85%.

Of the cases notified today 309 are men and 313 are women; 75% are under 45 years of age and the median aged is 32.

308 of the cases are in Dublin, 41 in Kildare, 38 in Donegal, 31 in Meath, 29 in Offaly and the remaining cases are spread across 18 other counties.

As of 24 March, 732,678 doses of Covid-19 vaccine have been administered with 529,984 people receiving their first dose and 202,694 receiving their second.

Health Service Executive CEO Paul Reid said in a post on Twitter that "thankfully" the figures were coming down.

However, he cautioned that this was happening "slower than we would all like".

Mr Reid said Dublin hospitals have the highest number of Covid-19 patients in their wards. "We all want this trend to continue down and avoid the tide turning against us again," he added.

Meanwhile, infectious diseases specialist Professor Mary Horgan urged people to "think hard before you travel" over the Easter holidays as between 40 and 50% of people infected with the Covid-19 virus display no symptoms at all.

Speaking on RTÉ's Brendan O'Connor programme, she said that "the last thing needed" is people moving around the country and bringing infection into less-populated rural areas.

She urged people to "just hang on" until vaccines become more widely available rather than risk infecting vulnerable people in the area they may travel to.

Covid-19 vaccination doses are set to pass the 750,000 mark this weekend as the roll-out continues in GP-operated vaccination hubs at Munster Technological University in Cork and Merlin Park in Galway.

Latest figures show that by Wednesday, 23 March, a total of 732,678 vaccines had been administered. These include 529,984 first doses and 202,694 second doses.

This week alone, approximately 76,000 doses had been administered by Thursday.

Included in that figure are about 23,000 doses of AstraZeneca held back over the European Medicines Agency safety check last week.  

There were more vaccinations yesterday and another 2,000 over-75s will be vaccinated by GPs at centres in Cork and Galway this weekend. 

The five temporary-walk-in Covid-19 test centres for asymptomatic people will operate throughout this weekend at Grangegorman, Blanchardstown, Irishtown and Tallaght in Dublin and Tullamore in Co Offaly.

Of the 1,700 people tested at these centres on Thursday, 1.34% tested positive for the virus.  

It comes as the controversial AstraZeneca facility at Halix in the Netherlands, which can supply five million vaccines per month, as well as the Pfizer-BioNTech plant at Marburg in Germany, aiming to deliver one billion doses per year, were both approved by the European Medicines Agency

Gardaí seek to be vaccinated as 'critical frontline workers'

Garda Commissioner Drew Harris said gardaí may accept surplus Covid vaccines offered by the HSE.

Where offers of surplus Covid vaccines are made to An Garda Síochána, priority shall be given to those immediately available for vaccination and those gardaí in roles most exposed to the risk of infection.

Mr Harris said An Garda Síochána recognises the responsibility of the HSE and its partners to oversee the administration of Covid-19 vaccinations and the Garda's Chief Medical Officer continues to engage with public health officials in respect of the National Vaccination Programme.

The Garda Representative Association welcomed the decision, but criticised what it said was a failure of management to ensure gardaí are appropriately positioned on the priority vaccination list.

GRA interim General Secretary Philip McAnenly said: "Garda management met the GRA yesterday to confirm that when extra vaccines become available at the end of a vaccination session, our members may avail of any doses left over.

"Until yesterday, management had insisted that gardaí may not accept such offers.

"Management's revised decision is a welcome outbreak of common sense but not a solution to the need for a proper vaccination plan for gardaí.

"Our members have always accepted that people such as the elderly, the medically vulnerable and frontline healthcare workers should go first.

"But after that, we believe the gardaí should be among the next group of people to be vaccinated as critical frontline workers in the battle to contain Covid-19.

"Gardaí are at high risk of catching the virus in the course of their duties and therefore putting their families, their colleagues and the public at risk too."

Additional reporting: George Lee, Paul Reynolds