The number of people with Covid-19 in hospitals around the country has risen by over 30% in the last week.

There were 803 Covid patients in hospital as of 8am this morning, with 51 of those in ICU.

That figure is an increase of 187 compared to last Tuesday. However, it is down five on the same time yesterday, which is the first daily reduction in 10 days.

The 808 people with the coronavirus in hospital on Monday, represented the highest level in six weeks, since 824 on 25 January.

While the number today is almost 40% higher than the recent low point on 19 February, when the figure stood at 579, it is just over 24% lower than the most recent high point of 1,063 on 10 January.

The number of patients with Covid in intensive care units has risen for the third consecutive day. Today's figure of 51 is an increase of four on the same time yesterday.

The figure compares to 48 last Tuesday and 54 two weeks ago, and is 61% lower than the most recent peak in coronavirus cases in critical care, which was 132 patients on 24 November last year.

Meanwhile the Department of Health has reported 4,423 PCR-confirmed cases of Covid-19. It said there were 6,957 positive antigen tests registered through the HSE portal.

Earlier Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly said the Covid case numbers are creating a "very heavy burden" on hospitals as entire wards have to be used exclusively for treating Covid patients, he said.

Speaking on RTÉ's Today with Claire Byrne, Minister Donnelly said he said he is not concerned about the trends in terms of the population.

"The ongoing advice I have from public health is that while the numbers are high, the total amount of severe illness in the country is still low.

"The public health advice I have, is they are not flagging concerns, but it is still a very serious pressure for us in running the health care system."

A total of 19,852 new Covid-19 cases were reported between Saturday and yesterday, according to the Health Protection Surveillance Centre.

Mr Donnelly also said there are no plans to reintroduce mandatory mask wearing across the population.

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

Another 2,669 confirmed cases of the virus have also been notified in the last 24-hour reporting period.

There were 467 Covid-19 patients in hospital this morning, with two in intensive care.