The Chief Medical Officer and public health advisers do not see the need for new restrictions to deal with the surge in Covid cases, the Tánaiste told a party meeting tonight.

Addressing a meeting of the Fine Gael Parliamentary Party, Leo Varadkar said Omicron is less severe and the population is highly vaccinated.

Leo Varadkar said Connolly Hospital Blanchardstown was very busy on his visit there today but the situation was similar to a bad flu season.

He said that economic and social restrictions are not imposed during a bad flu season.

Mr Varadkar encouraged everyone to get their booster vaccine, to wear masks, prioritise ventilation and to focus on outdoor activity.

The Government also wants to see advice from the National Immunisation Advisory Committee (NIAC) on a fourth vaccine dose.

The Department of Health has been notified of 7,038 PCR-confirmed cases of Covid-19, as well as 14,060 positive antigen tests logged online through the HSE portal.

As of 8am today, 1,395 Covid-19 patients were in hospital, which is an increase of 57 on yesterday.

Of those, 55 patients were being treated in ICU, a decrease of six from Tuesday.

It comes as the Health Service Executive said the hospital system is getting very "choked" because of the high rates of coronavirus infections being reported across the country.

HSE Chief Clinical Officer Dr Colm Henry this evening expressed concern at the number of people with Covid-19 in hospital.

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Speaking on RTÉ's Six One News, Dr Henry said that while the vaccination programme has meant they are seeing "much greater protection" from severe disease, they are still seeing a severe impact on those who are unvaccinated.

He said there is also disruption to the health system, with many staff out on Covid-related leave.

"The numbers actually don't tell the whole story because in some cases this involves entire teams, so a service is disrupted or paused as a result," he said.

If it were not for the vaccination programme, Dr Henry said they would be seeing "huge levels" of hospitalisations and intensive care cases that they "couldn’t even imagine".

He said the presence of people testing positive for Covid, even if they are not sick, is "very disruptive" to the flow of healthcare.

He said over 60% of residential care settings for older people are now impacted by outbreaks, with over 50 new outbreaks last week.

"So there’s lots of transmission out there," he said.

Earlier, HSE Chief Executive Paul Reid told RTÉ News that the surge in cases is having a "significant impact".

"Hospitals have taken individual decisions [about elective care] because many hospitals have high numbers of their beds fully taken up with Covid patients and that is impacting on elective care," Mr Reid said.

The HSE says it may need to take a "national decision" about curtailing elective care and surgeries but right now individual hospitals are still making their own decision based on the numbers admitted.

Mr Reid said hospitals are seeing "a perfect storm".

"Well over 5,000 staff are out of work with Covid and almost 1,000 staff are out [of work] in nursing homes across the country,'' Mr Reid said.

The HSE said there has been a delay in discharging older patients to nursing homes because 64% of them are dealing with outbreaks.

However, the HSE says the impact on older people is not as severe compared to the previous waves.

Mr Reid added that he strongly encouraged everyone to wear face coverings, particularly if you are vulnerable and are indoors with a lot of people.

"The basics are important," he added.

With Covid spreading rapidly in communities and very high transmission levels being reported, the HSE has encouraged 720,000 people who are now eligible for a booster vaccine to come forward.

The HSE said many of those due the booster contracted the virus in January and it is important to get a booster to protect yourself, especially in the midst of the latest surge in infections.

Earlier today, the chair of the Irish Medical Organisation's GP sub-committee said that Ireland is experiencing a Covid-19 surge, but people are reluctant to recognise it.

Dr Denis McCauley said the number of people with Covid-19 in hospitals is going up and ICU numbers are also slowly creeping up.

Speaking on RTÉ's Morning Ireland, the Donegal-based GP said that while people are not getting very ill, there is still a lot of illness.

"I think there is a problem and I think we need to recognise it," he said.

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Dr McCauley said that some subtle changes need to be implemented and that simple public health measures should be advised again for the next few weeks, including mask wearing.

"Put your mask in your back pocket again. Have it with you. If you're going to an indoor area wear your mask again, if you're in a large populated area outside and there's a lot of people around, wear your mask," he urged.

Dr McCauley said the vast majority of Covid-19 symptoms remain the same, although there has been a slight increase in patients with gastrointestinal symptoms.

"The vast majority of people feel quite unwell with respiratory symptoms, this upper respiratory - sore throat, sinus infection," he said.

Speaking on the same programme, the World Health Organization's Special Envoy on Covid-19 said a virus like Covid-19 will come in surges every three or four months.

Dr David Nabarro said a slower removal of restrictions, such as mask wearing, would have led to less of a surge in Ireland than is currently being experienced.

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This is a dangerous situation, he said, but the reality is that it is not as dangerous as it was 18 months ago.

"I think authorities are concluding that they can live with this kind of situation. They'll be watching it very carefully. But perhaps this is the way things are going to be in the future.

"There'll be quite a lot of Covid being transmitted, not so many people in hospital because of the high levels of vaccination," he said.

Dr Nabarro also said that it still makes sense to wear masks, particularly in confined places, and to practice physical distancing.

He said that those who are vulnerable should be particularly careful about going out and meeting new people.

"I'm absolutely certain this virus is constantly changing. And I wouldn't be surprised if the prevailing presentation of people with the disease is shifting," Dr Nabarro added.

Additional reporting Dimitri O'Donnell