Health Service Executive CEO Paul Reid HSE has said the threat from Covid-19 is still "very real", with the number of people being treated in hospital for the virus now at 314 - the highest since the end of March.

The Department of Health has also been notified of 1,688 new cases, with the 314 patients in hospital an increase of 55 on yesterday.

The number of people in ICU is up five to 59.

It comes as 1,485 new Covid cases were reported in Northern Ireland in the last 24 hours, with 11 additional deaths.

In an update this morning, Mr Reid said the figures show the "threat is still very real".

He also said that with almost 6.6 million doses of Covid-19 vaccines now administered, 85% of the adult population had received two doses, with 91% of people having received at least one dose.

Mr Reid said over 135,000 people in the 12-15 age cohort had now registered to receive a vaccine, while 77,000 doses had now been administered among that age group.


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Meanwhile, a member of NPHET's Epidemiological Modelling Advisory Group has said the country is currently at a "very concerning" period in the pandemic, but that the country’s "very good" vaccine coverage was helpful.

Speaking on RTÉ’s This Week programme, UL Statistics Professor Cathal Walsh said there was concern that people cannot become complacent.

He said some breakthrough Covid-19 cases were being recorded for a number of reasons.

"Perhaps people haven't waited fully until the vaccine has taken effect before they've mixed and socialised... we've seen a number of cases where people have been infected very close to the time of their vaccination, and so the vaccine didn't have time to take effect," he said.

"The second point to emphasise is that we are at a critical phase where we have good coverage, we have protection in the population, but the fire is still raging. We have very high incidence. In fact, we have one of the highest incidences of disease at present in Europe."

Prof Walsh said even though cases have reached over 2,000 some days, a plateau in case numbers is emerging.

Separately, Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney said the Government will release a roadmap for the further reopening of society before the end of August.

When asked about the Government's plan in relation to Covid restrictions, he said: "I know there is a huge amount of impatience and frustration in the public" but added there is a reason for the Government’s caution.

"For a number of days now the number of people who tested positive is well over 2,000, and we see in Northern Ireland in the last few days the highest number of positive tests since this pandemic began, and we have seen now the numbers in hospital over 300 and the numbers in ICU over 50.

"The Delta variant is dangerous, it’s spreading and it’s present, very much so."

While our shield to protect against the virus is stronger than ever, there is still a risk, he stated.

Mr Coveney said that the live entertainment sector will get "certainty" in the next week on the Government’s decision, but he suspects that the reopening date for that industry may be in September.

He defended the decision to allow 40,000 people to attend today's All-Ireland hurling final in Croke Park, adding:

"It's outside, it’s structured, it’s in a very large stadium, people will be apart in terms of social distance and wearing masks.

"We have worked with sporting organisations to put a protocol in place to allow big events like this to happen. As a Cork person, it will be a privilege to be there."

Public health advice for pregnant teachers 'incongruous'

Irish National Teachers' Organisation President John Boyle said that while the vast majority of teachers are vaccinated, public health advice concerning pregnant teachers coming back to the classroom is "incongruous".

"We have two pieces of competing health advice", he said. While the advice is to get a vaccine, those who are in early pregnancy or are immunocompromised and cannot take a vaccine, are to go back into classrooms without that protection, he stated.

Also speaking on This Week, Mr Boyle said that these members are contacting the INTO for advice on returning to work.

Mr Boyle said they have been asking that this small cohort of workers are allowed to work from home.

The INTO president said that the first batch of carbon dioxide monitors are to arrive into schools from tomorrow and a second batch is due to arrive in early September.

"We do have some concerns that not every single teaching zone or public zone will have its individual monitor."

Mr Boyle also said the INTO was concerned that the listed symptoms of Covid that require self-isolation were not broad enough given the changed nature of the Delta variant.

"It’s a very important message for parents. Children can have sore throats, headaches, runny or stuffy noses, or feel sick, vomiting or diarrhea and up until the summer, you could go to school with those symptoms. You cannot go to school with those uncommon symptoms or the common symptoms, and it’s really important. The biggest worry the teacher has is that the school goes back to remote learning."

He said it is five months since the department received scientific advice that there should be pilot antigen testing for schools, "but we really need to see that pilot scheme begin because we need to keep schools open", he added.