The Department of Health has confirmed 1,271 new cases of Covid-19.

There are 297 patients with the virus in hospital, down three from yesteday, 59 of whom are in intensive care, a decrease of one.

Meanwhile, there have been 17 Covid-19 deaths in the week to last Tuesday, according to the Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC).

It brings the number of deaths in September to 102, which is the highest monthly number since March.

The mean age of those who died in the past week was 76 years.

All 17 deaths reported had a date of death in the week to 28 September.

The HPSC said the total number of deaths in Ireland from the pandemic is 5,249. Over 86% of those who have died had underlying conditions.

Of the total number of deaths, over 94% were confirmed as due to Covid-19; 3.3% were possibly due to Covid-19 and 1.8% were probably due to the disease.

In Northern Ireland, a further two patients who had tested positive for the disease have died.

Another 1,163 cases of the virus were also notified by the Department of Health today.

This morning, there were 342 Covid-positive patients in hospital, 31 of whom were in intensive care.

A total of 2,524,297 vaccines have been administered in Northern Ireland.

ECDC warns of influenza risk on top of Covid pressures this winter

The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) has said that countries with a low uptake of vaccines must expect a rise in Covid-19 cases over the autumn, as it urged a focus on the vaccination of younger people.

Ole Heuer, public health emergency manager with the ECDC, told RTÉ's News at One that countries with low vaccine cover (below 75%) are likely to see a rise in hospitalisations.

He said that influenza is an additional risk this autumn and winter, which could add to the overall burden on healthcare.

Mr Heuer said that in countries where the level of vaccination is not sufficient the consequences of reducing restrictions and increasing contact between people will be a rise in cases.

The ECDC has said that so far, only 61% of the total population in the EU/EEA have been fully vaccinated, and only three countries (Malta, Portugal, Iceland) have vaccinated more than 75% of their total population.

It puts the cumulative uptake of full vaccination in the total population in Ireland at 72.8% up to 19 September.

More recent data from the High Level Task Force on Covid-19 Vaccination puts the total population vaccinated in Ireland at 74%.

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The new risk assessment from the ECDC says that countries with higher Covid-19 vaccination coverage in the total population are at a lower risk of experiencing a severe surge of cases, hospitalisations and mortality from now until the end of November, unless there is a rapid decline of vaccine effectiveness due to waning immunity.

Mr Heuer said that the Delta variant of the virus remains the main variant of concern and accounts for more than 99% of sequenced cases across Europe.

He stressed that available vaccines protect against severe disease and death from the virus.

The situation varies a lot by country, he said, and while the vaccine roll-out has been very successful in older populations in almost all countries, there is "room for improvement" among the younger populations.

Mr Heuer said that some "easy wins" could be implemented by bringing vaccine centres closer to people and allow people to arrive without pre-booking.

Mitigating the risk of spread between school children requires upholding infection control measures, he added, including social distancing and hygiene measures.

He stressed that "it is quite clear we need to continue testing" for Covid-19.

Mr Heuer said that "in defining future surveillance it is absolutely necessary that testing continues to identify infection ... and to enable sequencing of virus to allow for the earlier detection of new variants".

Additional reporting Fergal Bowers