Chief Executive Paul Reid led the Health Service Executive's first media briefing for many weeks today, as he and colleagues provided the latest update on Covid-19 in hospitals, testing and tracing and vaccinations.

Here's what we learned:

1. Sticking to the basics

Mr Reid's central message to the public today, including for those who are vaccinated, was to stick to the "basics" around public health measures aimed at preventing the spread of Covid-19.

The HSE CEO urged people to make sure hand cleansers are still in work places, that masks are worn properly, and that people keep their distance.

He said the combined effort will make a very real impact.

He said: "I think hand on heart, as we saw things improve, the high level of vaccination rates, we were mixing more, we were back indoors, back in bars, it felt like normal again but we need to keep that normality with some of the basic measures."

Although vaccination provides a "strengthened level of protection" than we've had during other waves of Covid-19, we do all need to strengthen our personal level of awareness and risks and enhance our defence against the virus, he said.

2. Significant pressure on health service

Chief Operations Officer of the HSE Anne O'Connor said "we are now under significant pressure" and urged the public to follow public health guidelines to reduce pressure on the system.

She urged the public to take measures to keep healthy and reduce the number of people coming into hospital.

She said that she wanted to emphasise that the message is "do all you can please to support us to deliver services".

Ms O'Connor also paid thanks to healthcare staff who are working tirelessly.

She said "significant numbers of people" are being admitted with Covid-19, with 448 hospitalised cases today after 30 admissions already today and another 35 yesterday.

Covid-19 is having an impact on services across a number of hospitals already and more procedures may have to be cancelled if the kind of projections on hospital and ICU admissions set out by NPHET come to pass.

Ms O'Connor also said that outpatient waiting list numbers are "huge" and represent "a very big mountain to climb" but things are moving in the right direction.

Referring to the numbers of people in ICU with Covid-19, Mr Reid said we don't want to see significant numbers - currently 88 people in ICU - being admitted to ICU and that projections of 150 in intensive care in the coming weeks would put huge pressure on services.

Mr Reid said the levels of projections from NPHET for people being cared for in intensive care are huge cause for concern for ICU consultants.

3. Appeal to unvaccinated

Referring to the numbers of people in hospital this week with Covid-19, Mr Reid said 52% of those people being treated in ICU are not vaccinated, which is "very disproportionate" considering the number of unvaccinated adults makes up less than 10% of the population.

He said those who aren't vaccinated are putting themselves, their families and friends at an "unnecesary higher level of risk". He said it was in the interest of the "common good" that people come forward for vaccination.

Damian McCallion, HSE National Director for the Covid-19 Vaccination Programme, said they are reaching out to groups and communities who have so far not received a vaccine.

He said interventions are being made and that he hopes people who are medically vulnerable will be aware of the pressures on hospitals and will get a vaccine.

Mr McCallion said one initiative from the HSE is encouraging clinicians to discuss with patients they might have who are unvaccinated.

To date, 92.4% of the adult population has been fully vaccinated.

He said 2,500 new people registered for a first dose yesterday.

"Perhaps some of the messages out there [...] are getting through to people," he said.

4. Antigen testing

It had been announced earlier in the week that antigen testing would soon be provided to close contacts of confirmed cases.

The national lead for testing and tracing Niamh O'Beirne explained how this new process would work today.

Antigen tests will be sent out to close contacts if they are both vaccinated and have no symptoms. If a vaccinated person does have symptoms, they'll be referred for a PCR test, as will close contacts who are unvaccinated.

However, for those who are vaccinated and have no symptoms, they will be sent five antigen tests in the post. They will be required to complete three in all, one every two days. If any of these returns a positive result, they are advised to then go seek a PCR test.

The HSE will run information campaigns and produce video content to explain how to best use an antigen test.

5. Maternity restrictions

At today's briefing, the HSE said that from 1 November, all maternity services can provide access for nominated support partners to access inpatient areas during normal visiting hours of 8am and 9am.

The move will be welcomed by expectant parents around the country after the imposition of restrictions meant many couldn't accompany their pregnant partner for appointments.

Asked about the new guidance for maternity units to allow visits from partners, Mr Reid said "there is now a very clear policy guidance for maternity units, we will be doing site visits and we will expect maternity units to follow the clear guidance".

He said the HSE will expect them to comply with this.

Mr Reid also said two maternity hospitals who have allowed more access for partners have not see any evidence of spread of Covid-19 infection.

6. Booster jabs for healthcare workers

To date, the National Immunisation Advisory Committee (NIAC) has not recommended a booster programme for healthcare workers.

When asked if if he'd like to see healthcare workers offered booster jabs, Mr Reid said simply "yes".

He said that the number of Covid-19 cases being seen in hospitals has been a concern, but that the HSE awaits further advice from NIAC before it can roll out a third dose to healthcare workers