The Department of Health has reported 23,281 further cases of Covid-19, the highest daily figure to date.

As of 8am, there were 656 people being treated in hospital with Covid-19, down 26 on the same time yesterday.

There are 85 people in intensive care units with the virus, down one on yesterday.

More than 120,000 people have tested positive for Covid-19 in Ireland since Christmas Day.

It means there were more cases recorded here between Christmas and New Year 2021 than in the whole of 2020 (91,779).

Ireland's Covid-19 testing system is continuing to come under pressure with no PCR test appointments available anywhere in the country this morning.

The Government has changed its advice to people seeking a PCR test to confirm they have Covid-19.

Those aged between four and 39 are now being asked to take regular antigen tests if they have symptoms of the virus.

If they receive a positive antigen test, they should then book a PCR test to confirm they have coronavirus.

If they have repeated 'not detected' antigen tests, they should still self-isolate for 48 hours after their symptoms have gone.

Healthcare workers, those aged over 40, children aged three or under and people with an underlying condition are still advised to seek a PCR test as soon as they have symptoms of Covid-19.

The HSE has advised people to check its website regularly as PCR slots may become available throughout the day.

Yesterday, the Department of Health reported 20,110 new cases of Covid-19.

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Taoiseach Micheál Martin said he is hoping for greater advances in fight against Covid-19 in 2022.

In a post on Twitter, he said: "2021 was a difficult year for Ireland, and the world, as we faced and met the ongoing challenge of Covid-19. Wishing everyone a happy and productive 2022, a year where we will see even greater advances in our fight against this pandemic."

Meanwhile, the Health Service Executive is now accepting bookings for booster vaccines from anyone aged 16 and over, after the vaccination programme opened to all age groups earlier than expected.

The portal opened last night after changes were announced by Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly.

People aged 16 to 29, and who have completed their primary course of a Covid-19 vaccine, are eligible for a booster, starting from tomorrow.

This age group had originally not been due to begin receiving boosters until 10 January.

GPs and pharmacies will continue to vaccinate down through the age groups, by appointment.

Minister Donnelly said: "This acceleration of the programmes means that many of our vaccination centres will now be administering primary, booster and paediatric doses of Covid-19 vaccine.

"Further clinics will be scheduled over the coming days. Appointments will be booked through the HSE online system."

All those seeking a booster vaccine should ensure they are at least three months post their second dose as this will be checked at the vaccination centre.

People who have had Covid-19 since being vaccinated should also wait three months before getting their booster.

From 8 January, children aged 5 to 11 will be offered a vaccine.

The portal to book an appointment for high risk children in this age group is already open and one of the first vaccination clinics for this age group was held in CityWest today.

HSE Chief Clinical Officer Dr Colm Henry said: "This vaccine has shown to offer protection from Covid-19, and will be given to children of this age in a smaller dose than the adult dose.

"We are encouraging parents and guardians to visit our website where they will find information to help make an informed decision when it is time for their child to be offered a COVID-19 vaccine."