The Department of Health has confirmed 4,607 new cases of Covid-19.

There are 579 people in hospital with the virus today, an increase of 13 on yesterday. Of those in hospital, there are 115 in ICU which is down two on yesterday.

In Northern Ireland, a further four deaths of patients who had previously tested positive for Covid-19 have been reported today.

Another 1,464 cases of the virus were also notified in the region, while there were 340 Covid-positive patients in hospital, of whom 28 were in intensive care.

In a statement released this evening, Chief Medical Officer Dr Tony Holohan said: "Our high incidence of disease from Covid-19 continues to have a significant impact on our health service. We are still seeing a concerning number of people who are in hospital and require critical care for Covid-19.

Dr Tony Holohan

"This wave of infection is driven by the highly transmissible Delta variant of Covid-19.

"We know that the news of the Omicron variant is causing some concern. However, we also know how to break the chains of transmission of Covid-19 - these measures have worked against previous variants of Covid-19, they can successfully suppress transmission of the Delta variant and we are optimistic that they will work against the Omicron variant.

"If you are socialising, think about the risk associated with the activities you have planned. Remember the simple steps you can take to keep both you and the people you meet with safe: wear a mask correctly; meet outside if possible; avoid poorly ventilated indoor spaces; practise good hand and respiratory hygiene," said Dr Holohan.

His comments come as the Government has said that 11 positive tests for Covid-19 are being further examined to see whether or not they are the new coronavirus variant, Omicron.

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The leaders of the three coalition parties are meeting the National Public Health Emergency Team today to discuss the pandemic, including the Omicron variant.

NPHET has been assessing the latest data on the virus and developments across Europe in recent days.

Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly has said it is likely that the new coronavirus variant is in Ireland.

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Earlier today, Mr Donnelly said it has become "unnecessary" to introduce a subsidy for antigen tests as the price of kits had fallen since Government began to discuss such a scheme.

Speaking on RTÉ's Today with Claire Byrne, Stephen Donnelly said kits had been broadly retailing at €8 per test and for many people this was "simply not affordable".

He said antigen tests were now available at some shops for between €1.50 and €3.

"It is pretty widespread now that the price really has fallen markedly. We got to broadly the price we were targetting without having to spend taxpayers' money," Mr Donnelly said.