As new rules on close contacts and testing come into effect tonight, here are seven things we learned from the HSE's latest Covid-19 briefing.

Vaccine milestone

10 million vaccine doses have now been administered in Ireland. 2.47 million of those are boosters and third doses.

HSE chief executive Paul Reid said they have capacity to do a lot more vaccines currently, and demand is not as strong as it was before Christmas.

Mr Reid said there is now plenty of evidence that the impact of the Omicron variant is not as severe.

But the rise in cases has continued to put a strain on the healthcare system, he said.

PCR system near max capacity

There is a 'significant' decrease in the number of people being referred by their GPs for Covid testing, said Paul Reid.

That in turn has been leading to increased availability of PCR testing.

But the HSE's vaccination lead Damien McCallion said that PCR capacity is still "pretty close to maxed out" at 300,000 tests per week.

Antigen capacity has now grown to 600,000 tests per week.

Incidental hospitalisation

The percentage of hospitalised Covid patients who were admitted for another illness is 30%.

That means 30% of Covid patients in hospital were admitted for something else and showed up as positive when tested for Covid-19.

The vast majority are asymptomatic but infectious, said Paul Reid.

That has changed on previous waves, he said. With Delta, around 90% of hospitalised patients were there to be treated for Covid, with just 10% of hospital cases being incidental.

Cases in hospitals slowing

The number of people in hospital with Covid has continued to increase, but the pace of increase is slowing.

1,011 are in hospital with Covid as of this morning.

'Thankfully the number of people with Covid in hospital has increased but the pace of increase seems to have slowed down," said Paul Reid.

It's still up 12% on the same day last week, he said.

There are 92 people in ICU as of this morning, which is down 2% on the same day last week. "We have relatively held stable on our ICU," said Mr Reid.

In the week ending 2 January, there were 136 cases of hospital-acquired Covid-19.

Outbreaks in nursing homes

There are currently 506 outbreaks open across residential care and hospitals, says the HSE's Anne O’Connor.

28% of all facilities providing older person services now have an outbreak, "which is a very high number".

Those types of facilities include private nursing homes and community hospitals.

PCR or professional antigen required for recovery cert

On ensuring that the antigen test results inputted by the public are correct, and to avoid any misuse of the system for the purpose of obtaining recovery certs, HSE chief Paul Reid says a lot of what has been done throughout Covid has been based on self-declaration.

'We haven't seen any major misuse of it to date’.

Damien McCallion said PCR or professionally administered antigen results are required to receive a recovery cert.

High-grade masks

The HSE is not providing masks for people who may need high-grade FFP2 masks under new close contact rules.

Paul Reid said it is Government policy to issue antigen tests and not masks. There is worldwide demand for the high-grade masks, he said, and a medical grade mask suffices.

Dr Colm Henry says medical masks (the blue disposable masks) offer protection when properly applied.