HSE Chief Executive CEO Paul Reid has described the situation with Covid-19 in hospitals as "grim" but said the HSE was calling for an urgent change in behaviour rather than any full or partial lockdowns.

It comes as the Department of Health has been notified of 3,805 new Covid cases.

There were 582 people in hospital with the virus as of 8am, up 26 on the same time yesterday.

Of these, 106 are in ICUs, down one.

Mr Reid said: "I've been talking to ICU consultants this morning and they are under extreme duress with 106 Covid patients at the moment, and a further 380 cases receiving advanced respiratory support out of a total of 582 cases.

"Many of those will become ICU patients as well, so we urgently need the general population to retract and adopt public health measures."

Over a third of ICU beds are taken up with Covid patients, he said, and those numbers will impact on other elective care.

The concern now is that their needs and care will be jeopardised as a result of rising Covid numbers, he added.

The HSE is not calling for lockdowns, he said, but added that it wants people to urgently take individual responsibility.

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"The HSE understands the reality of lockdowns and restrictions and the impact they have on the health system with regard to delayed care for people.

"We don't want a lockdown. We want people to retract from levels of engagement, from the numbers of people they are meeting, the activities they're engaged in over the next few weeks.

"We need to address the current situation before we head into a busy December for our health system," Mr Reid said.

He added that vaccinations and boosters are proven to work and put the country in a stronger position.

He also repeated the latest NPHET advice on the role of antigen testing in tackling the surge but warned that these tests should not be seen as the "silver bullet".

"They are another tool in our armory and they do add value in many locations and sectors but the HSE is very clear about providing information for anyone using them and we're looking at supporting sectors in how they're rolled out. But if you're sick and symptomatic you should stay at home."

He also repeated the advice that mask wearing and social distancing were crucial.

"Right now, we're engaged in a heightened level of social activity that is putting significant duress on the health system. Something has to change."

Regarding the extension of Covid passes beyond the hospitality sector, he said that was a policy decision for Government and NPHET had set out some recommendations from a health system perspective.

"We have sent the benefits of Covid passes and the increasing levels of compliance with them. We're calling on businesses to continue to utilise them for the agreed sectors and any further extension is for consideration by the Government."

Ireland is not the only health system becoming overwhelmed, he said, and referenced the Netherlands as struggling to cope despite being one of the best in Europe.

Ireland had over 200 patients in ICU in January, Mr Reid said, but it cannot be compared with now because only urgent care was being addressed then.

"Now we've a whole set of non-Covid care taking place in our hospitals alongside rising Covid cases. The situation is grim and something has to give."

The Cabinet Committee on Covid-19 will meet tomorrow evening before a full Cabinet meeting is held on Tuesday, when any decisions will be reached.

From tomorrow, visitors to nursing homes will be required to show proof of vaccination before entering.