The Department of Health has reported 3,692 new cases of Covid-19, with an additional 4,347 people registering a positive antigen test through the HSE portal.

There are 885 people with Covid-19 in hospital, up 40 on yesterday, of whom 76 are in ICU, down three.

It is the lowest number of people with Covid-19 in critical care in just over 11 weeks.

It comes as the Health Service Executive's Chief Operations Officer Anne O'Connor said high numbers of people are presenting at emergency departments with Covid-19.

Speaking on RTÉ's News at One, Ms O'Connor said Covid-19 "hasn't gone away" from a health service perspective.

"Notwithstanding the good news, in terms of people being out and about and being able to live their lives a bit more now, we still have 885 people in hospital today with Covid, so it hasn't gone away from a health service perspective, although it is a reduced figure to where we would have been a few weeks ago."

Ms O'Connor said the level of unscheduled care in hospitals remains "very, very high".

"We can't ignore the fact that we still have Covid in our hospitals, and we still have very high numbers of people coming to our emergency departments. So even today, we're very, very high. We're as high now as we were in the bad flu season two years ago in terms of our unscheduled care."

She added that over 8,000 health service staff remain out of work due to Covid and said virus has also had a "significant impact" on waiting lists.

She said that some improvements had been made regarding waiting times for inpatients and procedures such as scopes.

"This is for people who are awaiting colonoscopies and other scopes, which are very, very important in terms of helping us diagnose illnesses and we saw that number reduced from about 36,000 to 27,000."

However, waiting times for outpatient services grew.

"The big, big number that we talked about in terms of waiting lists is always our outpatient list and we started last year with just under 623,000. That rose by September up to 653,000 - so a significant increase," Ms O'Connor said, adding that the cyber attack on the HSE last May also impacted the list.


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She said demand for PCR testing has gone down, but said the HSE would be "cautious" about reducing capacity in a bid to reallocate resources to other areas of the health service.

"We're looking to see how we could use the staff, so for example, last autumn when we kind of had a bit of a lull in vaccination. We used a lot of those staff to work with us actually in relation to hospital waiting lists, being able to inform people and make appointments and we will continue to do that now as we start to scale back the [PCR testing] infrastructure."

Earlier, the President of the Irish Association for Emergency Medicine welcomed the lifting of restrictions, but said hospital emergency departments will continue to see "a lot of Covid."

Dr Fergal Hickey said that although the impact of the Omicron variant is not as severe as previous ones, a large volume of cases can still lead to a significant number of people needing hospitalisation.

Speaking on RTÉ's Today with Claire Byrne, he said this means that pressures on the "frail health service" will continue.

He also said that many people who returned to work in the healthcare will be frustrated by the genuinely poor infrastructure.

"That's an issue," he said, adding that he expects people to "vote with their feet" as opportunities for international travel begin to open up again.