A summer wave of Covid-19 is likely to be on the way, according to some of the country's leading medical professionals.

Experts said they are waiting to see what the next wave will look like as coronavirus cases in hospital continue to rise.

The number of people in hospital who have tested positive for the disease rose to 360 today - almost double the 181 inpatients with the virus two weeks ago.

In the same time period, Covid-positive intensive care numbers have increased from 18 to 23.

Statistically, around half of coronavirus patients in hospital are incidental cases - and were not admitted because of the virus.

''We may have a wave with a mutation that escapes vaccines better,'' said Dr Clíona Ní Cheallaigh, consultant in infectious diseases at St James's hospital in Dublin.

Scientists are closely tracking the latest variants from Omicron and are unsure how severe the next wave may be.

''We should use this time wisely,'' Dr Ní Cheallaigh told RTÉ News.

''A lot of the problems we faced in earlier waves, including ICU capacity and health system capacity, have not been fixed.''

Dr Ní Cheallaigh warned that Ireland needs to be prepared for the next wave of Covid ''because by the time the wave hits, it is too late to do any of that work''.

She added: ''We all love to take holidays and breaks and relax and think all the danger is over but we are definitely not out of the danger zone."

A conference has been held in Dublin examining how the country fared during the pandemic and what improvements can be made if another pandemic occurs.

Kingston Mills, Director of Trinity Biomedical Sciences Institute, said that because the Ba.4 and Ba.5 sub lineages of Omicron are so transmissable, it is "inevitable" there will be a rise in cases and hospitalisations.

''Hopefully that won't get too much worse but it could get a little worse before it gets better,'' he warned.

''The new variants are slightly more transmissible but importantly they also evade immunity more effectively than Omicron did, so the vaccines are not really working that well - especially for preventing infection.''

Doctors have advised that vaccines are still effective at preventing severe disease.

Experts said it is unlikely Ireland will have to return to restrictions or lockdowns in the future due to the high uptake of vaccines.

''But it is important any one who hasn't been boosted in the over 65 age group should get their booster now," Professor Mills said.