Almost 14,500 cases of Covid-19 were reported over the Easter Bank Holiday Weekend, according to latest figures.

The Department of Health reported 778 PCR-confirmed cases of Covid-19 cases today, while 1,641 people registered a positive antigen test through the HSE portal.

The figures also show that on Friday there were 1,788 PCR-confirmed cases and 2,013 positive antigen tests, with 1,666 PCR and 1,459 registered antigen cases on Saturday, while on Sunday there were 852 PCR-confirmed cases and 1,270 antigen tests registered through the portal.

Yesterday, the department was notified of 1,668 PCR-confirmed cases of Covid-19 with 1,351 antigen tests were registered.

There was a slight increase in the number of people in hospital with Covid-19 this morning, up eight on yesterday to 750.

There were 44 people in ICUs with the virus, a decrease of four on the same time yesterday.

The highest number in hospital during this wave was 1,624 patients recorded on 28 March.

Meanwhile, the Chair of Biochemistry at Trinity College has said that Covid-19 vaccines are working against newer variants in preventing severe disease.

Professor Luke O'Neill said the Covid variant, Omicron XE, is a mutation, but is mainly like the BA. 2 strain.

He said vaccinations are still working on the newer variants and so far there has only been one case in Ireland of XE.

Speaking on RTÉ's Today with Philip Boucher-Hayes, Prof O'Neill said XE has three extra mutations that are brand new, which means "we need to watch it very closely".

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The new form of the virus, known as Omicron XE, is a recombinant of the Omicron BA.1 and BA.2 variants.

The Department of Health has said that as of 8 April, one case of the XE variant has been reported in the Republic of Ireland to date, in a travel-associated case with a specimen date in February 2022.

A number of cases have been reported in Northern Ireland.

Prof O'Neill said the good news is that the immune system is still holding up to stop people getting severe disease.

"It's like a deck of cards and it keeps getting reshuffled.

"You know an immune system can recognise the same cards, basically. So far the worry would be a new deck of cards might emerge, or a different kind of suit of cards ... might emerge, and then we might be in more trouble, but for the moment as I say it's the same deck of cards being reshuffled basically."

Prof O'Neill said antiviral medications will work on the variants, but the "holy grail" will be to get a pan-virus medication that will work against all future variants and stop the virus transmitting as well.

Next-gen vaccines will be the next tool in the battle against coronavirus, he said, adding that in the meantime, we are reliant on prudence in continuing to wear a mask on a voluntary basis, and using antigen tests, which are a reliable indicator against XE.

Antigen tests are still working in detecting the newer variants and there will be less infection to deal with over the summer, he said.

"But come September, October there's bound to be a surge because we're back indoors again. I'm keeping my fingers crossed that these next-gen vaccines will be rolled out as soon as we possibly can, otherwise there could be problems with these new variants that keep emerging," he warned.

In Northern Ireland, there have been a total of 2,695 positive virus cases reported from 14 April to today, with an additional 14 deaths reported in that period.