The Department of Health has been notified of 5,767 additional PCR-confirmed cases of Covid-19, as well as 5,916 positive antigen tests registered through the HSE portal.

The number of people in ICU is 93. There are now 979 people in hospital with the virus.

It comes as Tánaiste Leo Varadkar told the Fine Gael parliamentary party of his wish to set 31 March as a deadline to end almost all legal Covid restrictions.

The party leader told his TDs, Senators and MEPs that the Government cannot promise anything yet and there is still the option of extending for another three months until the end of June.

He also noted the Government may have to keep some measures another while longer - such as mask wearing in crowded places, staying at home when symptomatic and Covid passes for international travel.

He said the coalition must continue to be prepared for a new severe variant of concern later in the year and that means being prepared for another round of vaccination if that's necessary, being able to switch back on test/trace/isolate programmes, investing in improved air quality in our buildings and continued increases in hospital bed capacity and ICUs.

Meanwhile, Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly has said that public health restrictions are set to be wound down "very soon".

The Minister said it's likely some restrictions will be lifted before the end of the month.

However, he would not say if restrictions on 8pm closing time for the hospitality industry could be lifted by this weekend.

The current restrictions were set to run until Sunday, 30 January.

But the Health Minister has now all but confirmed that many of them will end before that date.

The letter NPHET will send to Government on Thursday evening will ultimately influence the exact timing but it's very possible restrictions could be eased from early next week.

Minister Donnelly said Government wanted to see a return to normal life and to ease the burden on people as quickly as possible.

It's now expected that a new midnight closing time for bars, restaurants and cultural venues is on the way.

More people could also be allowed attend weddings soon while a gradual return to the workplace could get underway too.

It is likely that the number of people allowed attend both indoor and outdoor events will be increased amid the likelihood now that outdoor sports venues could return to full capacity.

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Minister of State for Sport, Jack Chambers, expressed confidence that spectator numbers will be at 100% capacity come the start of the Six Nations on 5 February and possibly for the start of the National Football League on 29 January.

Speaking on RTE's Drivetime, he said that he met with sporting organisations on Monday where he heard them press for a return to full capacity stadium numbers.

He said: "I think all the public health indicators are now going in the right direction. I think we’ve gone beyond the Omicron peak.

"We’re seeing falling case numbers every day. Hospital admissions are falling as well and ICU is stable.

"I think that gives good room and hope around the return of spectators. As Minister for Sport, I’m ambitious and my aim is to get back to 100% capacity as quickly as possible and that’s the message we received from the sporting organisations."

Minister Chambers said that it was possible that a decision will be made ahead of this weekend.

"I’m positive and optimistic we’ll see significant progress on the return to spectators in the coming days," he said..

Minister Chambers said that the government will give "a formal update" in the coming days and that he is aware that the GAA leagues resume on the last weekend in January.

He said: "That will have to form part of our consideration when we’re making a decision on the return of spectators."

As regards hospitality, Minister Chambers said that the sector is also under review and that hospitality within stadia "mirrors what happens outside."

Mr Donnelly said cases numbers and hospitalisations are falling and "importantly the numbers in critical care, in spite of a tsunami of cases have remained steady".

Early indications suggest that a new closing time for bars, restaurants and cultural venues could be set at midnight from the end of this month or in early February.

A further easing of restrictions would then take place at a later date when the requirement on premises would possibly be scaled back to just checking Covid passes.

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In Northern Ireland, a further six people who previously tested positive for Covid-19 in Northern Ireland have died, the Department of Health said.

Another 4,081 confirmed cases of the virus were also recorded in the latest 24-hour reporting period.

As of this morning, there were 412 Covid-positive patients in hospital there, with 28 in intensive care.

Some issues updating Covid certs - Smyth

Meanwhile, the Minister of State for Public Procurement and e-Government said that there have been some issues in updating Covid Digital Certificates in recent weeks.

Ossian Smyth said that this was because "data didn't flow" as quickly as it "should have" from some pharmacists or GPs after people had received their booster vaccine.

Speaking on RTÉ’s Today with Claire Byrne, he said: "I cannot blame the GPs and pharmacists for that because they were under such immense pressure. Sometimes data didn’t make it and we had to trace back."

Mr Smyth said that it is important that all Covid certificates are updated by 1 February, as that is the date when new EU travel rules come into force.

He said that if people have issues with their updated certificate or if they have lost it, they can resolve this online.

Mr Smyth said: "You can go to and on the front page of the government website, there’s a link to your Covid certificate."

Additional reporting by Mícheál Lehane