Ireland is heading "very slowly, but steadily and progressively into another epidemic" according to a consultant in infectious diseases at Beaumont Hospital in Dublin.

Speaking on RTÉ's Drivetime, Professor Sam McConkey said the number of Covid-19 cases in Ireland are "very concerning".

He said the last two months has shown that things are getting worse here with 10 new cases a day or fewer to "back into triple figures ... unless we actually do things differently, in another two months it's going to be up at 1,000 and that is a disaster".

Professor McConkey warned that we are "heading slowly, very slowly, but steadily and progressively into another epidemic in our midst that will lead to ICU [numbers] and deaths overwhelming the health service".

He said more people have been admitted to hospital over the last six days. "In two weeks' time, we will not only be seeing increased hospitalisations, but increased ICU admissions and two weeks after that, increased deaths."

The professor told RTÉ he would like to see the focus on controlling Covid spread in community transmission in a better way, as it had not been possible to find all the outbreaks and transmission was growing.

Earlier today, it was revealed that Ireland's 14-day cumulative incidence of Covid-19 cases for every 100,000 people has risen, according to the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC).

The ECDC calculated it was now at 34.7 cases, up from 33.2 yesterday.

However, new information released at a Department of Health briefing this evening stated the incidence rate here is now as high as 35 per 100,000.

Ireland's rate is higher than the UK at 32.3 and Italy at 30.3. Spain has the highest rate at 240.6 cases for every 100,000 people. The country with the lowest rate is Latvia at 4.7.

Meanwhile, overnight figures showed a small rise in the number of patients in hospital confirmed as having Covid-19.

There are 49 patients with the virus in hospital, with six of these in intensive care.

It compares with 48 confirmed cases in hospital on Saturday and 33 this day last week.

There are also 61 suspected cases in hospital, with seven in intensive care.

Overall, the hospital system has 48 intensive care beds free. While there are 436 intensive care beds in the system, 345 are open and staffed.

The Irish Nurses and Midwives' Organisation said there were 163 admitted patients waiting for a bed at hospitals around the country.

It said there were 44 patients waiting for a bed at University Hospital Limerick, with 30 at Cork University Hospital.

Meanwhile, the next scheduled meeting of the National Public Health Emergency Team is set for Thursday.

The meeting is expected to discuss the rise in cases in Dublin, as well as a number of outbreaks in healthcare settings.

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It is also expected to make a decision on reducing the quarantine period for people with Covid-19 from 14 days to ten days, due to evolving international evidence on the virus.

The issue has gone to the Covid-19 Expert Advisory Group for its view.

Health experts believe that reducing the self-isolation period would also ease the impact on parents, schools and older people and assist in restoring some normalcy in society.

A consultant in infectious diseases at Beaumont Hospital said he has a sense of "foreboding" about the coming months.

Dr Eoghan de Barra said there is a mini-wave or surge of flu every winter in Ireland and across the northern hemisphere and this year the health service is faced with Covid-19 as well. 

Speaking on RTÉ's Today with Claire Byrne, he also warned that "some people may have other diagnoses that might be missed or mis-labelled because there is was so much Covid around". 

It was reported at the weekend that three wards at the hospital have been closed after two staff tested positive for Covid-19. 

Dr de Barra said the the finding of cases is not surprising as the hospital took a cautious approach and undertook widespread testing of patients.

Every patient who is admitted to Beaumont Hospital is tested for Covid-19, he said, irrespective of their reason for being there.