There have been 17,065 new cases of Covid-19 reported by the Department of Health today while over 3,700 positive antigen tests were registered on the Health Service Executive's website.

The new portal to report results went live this morning for people aged between four and 39.

The HSE said as of 7pm this evening, details of 3,764 positive antigen tests had been entered on the website.

The details of 4,665 people deemed as close contacts were also uploaded today.

Those people will in turn be notified by the HSE and given advice on what steps they may need to take.

As of 8am, there were 1,023 patients in hospital with the virus, an increase of 12 on the same time yesterday.

It compares to a figure of 936 on this day last week and 682 two weeks ago.

Of those in hospital with Covid-19, 83 were being treated in intensive care units, down nine on the same time yesterday.

Earlier the Deputy Chief Medical Officer said the National Public Health Emergency team is hopeful that "we are certainly coming close to the peak of this" [Omicron wave], if it has not yet passed.

Dr Ronan Glynn said there are grounds for optimism and things are going in the right direction.

Speaking on RTÉ's Today with Claire Byrne, Dr Glynn said one more week of data is needed to conclude if Ireland has passed the peak and NPHET will be meeting next week.

He said the measures on hospitality are one of a set in place to mitigate against the worst effects of the current wave and that will all be looked at next week.

Dr Glynn said the latest changes in public health advice are in light of NPHET'S understanding of Omicron, the importance of boosters, the impact they have seen on society and the health service and what the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control and others have said.

The new rules, which came into operation at midnight, ease restrictions on close contacts, reduce the length of time that people with Covid-19 have to self-isolate, and end the requirement for a PCR test for those aged 39 and under who get a positive result from an antigen test.

Anyone who has Covid-19 now has to self-isolate for seven days, instead of ten.

People who have received a booster vaccine and who are identified as close contacts are no longer required to restrict their movements, but instead are advised to wear a medical grade or FFP2 mask for ten days, and take regular antigen tests.

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Dr Glynn said any reduction of isolation or movement brings an increased risk of transmission.

He also acknowledged that over the last while rules and guidance have become "very complex" and it was difficult for people to follow.

"A core part of what we are trying to do here is to simplify it down," he said.

Dr Glynn said there has been nothing to stop people flexing the rules to suit themselves throughout the pandemic, but the vast majority take the public health advice on board.

"I am sure that is what the majority will continue to do in light of the current advice."

Also today, the HSE National Lead on Vaccination Damien McCallion said the purpose of the new antigen test reporting system was to try capture "as many of the positive cases as possible".

He said people can access the portal through the HSE's website and from there the close contact details can be entered and that will flow into a management system.

Mr McCallion said although there was a big increase in terms of positivity rates in recent weeks, they are seeing some changes in recent days and said referrals from GP practices have reduced.

He said while it is "early shoots they are things we would see as positive".

Hospitality will get 'decent advance notice' on easing restrictions

The hospitality sector will get "decent advance notice" before the easing of restrictions on closing times, the Tánaiste has said.

Leo Varadkar said the plan is that the current restrictions would remain in place until the end of January and the Government "would like to see hospital numbers falling before we feel comfortable about easing any restrictions."

He said NPHET will meet on 20 January and the Government will make a decision "in the days after that."

"We should be able to give businesses that are restricted clear information and clarity about what will happen in February, well before February happens," he said.

Focus on hospital and ICU numbers - Tánaiste

The Tánaiste said the Government would like to see ICU and hospital numbers falling before it feels comfortable about easing restrictions.

Leo Varadkar said the plan is that the current restrictions will remain in place until 31 January with NPHET meeting on 20 January and it will advise Government at that point.

He said they should be able to give businesses that are restricted clear information and clarity about what will happen in February well before February happens.

Meanwhile, the Minister of State for Business, Employment and Retail has said that the Government is reviewing its position on the provision of free FFP2 masks.

However, Damien English stressed that the key message today is that it is important to use these higher grade masks since the requirement to isolate has been reduced.

Speaking on RTÉ's Today with Claire Byrne, Mr English said: "There will be a policy response to make sure that the masks are there, are available, should they be subsidised is something that was asked by Minister Stephen Donnelly yesterday. This will be reviewed by Government and kept in play," he said.

Additional reporting Mary Regan