The number of people with Covid-19 in hospital has fallen to the lowest level this year.

It comes as the Department of Health reported 6,061 PCR-confirmed cases of Covid and 6,814 people registered a positive antigen test.

There were 610 patients with the virus being treated in hospital as of 8am, which is a reduction of 20 since the same time yesterday.

This compares to a figure of 896 on this day two weeks ago and 708 last Thursday.

Today's number represents the lowest level since 29 December, when there were 568 people with Covid in hospital.

The figure is also almost 43% down from the recent peak of 1,063 patients on 10 January.

The number of people with Covid-19 in intensive care units is also continuing to reduce.

As of 11.30am, there were 63 patients with the virus receiving treatment in ICU, down two on the same time yesterday.

It compares to a figure of 90 people on this day two weeks ago and is the lowest level since 3 October, when there were 60 patients with Covid in critical care.

Latest Coronavirus stories

A reduction in testing for Covid-19 is under discussion and a consensus will be reached on the way forward, said Professor Martin Cormican, HSE Clinical Lead on Antimicrobial Resistance and Infection Control.

Speaking on RTÉ's Morning Ireland, he said the decision will take account of risks and uncertainties around Covid infection.

Prof Cormican said he was optimistic that testing will be rolled back by the end of this year.

He said: "I would certainly be optimistic that we would be there by the end of this year, but again, you know the road ahead is uncertain.

"Obviously we are conscious that there is a risk that you could have another variant that makes trouble for us.

"We all hope that it won't happen. We have to take it one step at a time".

A balance is needed to control an infectious disease that cannot be eradicated with people getting on with their lives, he said.

"I think we've already started to see a change in the approach to testing, of course, and that many people are now self-testing rather than going for the laboratory testing so that transition in terms of a change of approach to testing has already started.

"In some ways, I expect that we will be making further steps along that way sooner rather than later", but he said he cannot give an exact timetable about when that will be.

Prof Cormican said he would still encourage people who have not yet had any vaccine to come forward as soon as possible.

He said it is not yet known if a second booster will be needed.

Professor Kingston Mills, Prof of Experimental Immunology, TCD, said he believes it is "only a matter of time" before a booster shot is approved by the European Medicines Agency for those aged 12-15.

Speaking on RTÉ's Today with Claire Byrne, Prof Mills said two doses of vaccine does not protect against Omicron, and failure to give a third dose would be a waste of the previous two doses that this cohort received.

A subvariant of Omicron - BA.2 - is now dominant in Denmark, India and South Africa and is more transmissible "by around 30%".

However, there is no evidence that it causes more severe disease, he said, but added that a small proportion of people who have had the original Omicron variant also contracted the BA.2 subvariant.

Meanwhile in Northern Ireland, three further people who had previously tested positive for Covid-19 have died, the Department of Health said.

Another 4,203 confirmed cases of the virus have also been notified in the last 24-hour reporting period.

This morning, there were 354 Covid-19 patients in hospital, with 11 in intensive care.