The recent rise in Covid-19 cases is "in part" due to emerging Omicron variants of the virus, according to the HSE's Chief Clinical Officer.

In a statement this afternoon, Dr Colm Henry urged more people to get their Covid vaccine or booster, adding that although there was a reduction in virus infection in recent months, there has been a sharp increase in cases and hospitalisations in recent weeks.

"This rise may be attributable in part to emerging variants of Omicron, which can evade immunity from either natural infection with a previous variant or vaccination," Dr Henry said.

He said that many of those hospitalised with the virus did not receive either their booster vaccine or a primary vaccination course.

Dr Henry added that scale of Ireland’s vaccine uptake, particularly in 2021, played a huge part in reducing the harm caused by the virus.

"Covid-19 vaccination is critical to ensure people are protected from serious illness, particularly those who are most vulnerable," he said.

Dr Colm Henry (File photo:

This advice, he said, was especially important for those who are 65-years-old or older, and those who are 12 years or older with a weak immune system who have yet to get their second booster vaccine.

As of 8am, there were 496 people in hospital with the virus, which is an increase of 19 on the same time yesterday.

Of these, 25 are being treated in intensive care units, down one on yesterday.

Speaking on RTÉ's Your Politics podcast, Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly added that if Covid cases in hospitals go above 1,300 to 1,400, then "you will have to start cancelling operations".

Mr Donnelly added that further restrictions are not under consideration.

Meanwhile, the HSE's National Lead for Test and Trace and Vaccination, Damien McCallion, said the health service will shortly move to the "next stage of its Covid-19 vaccination programme".

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Mr McCallion said that since the programme began in December 2020, more than four million people have had their primary vaccine and over 3.22 million people have had at least one booster dose.

He added that Ireland’s vaccination programme has been widely acknowledged as one of the most successful programmes in the world, with the uptake of dose one at over 97.6% of the eligible population.

"We know that there will continue to be people who want to get their primary vaccine dose or their first or second booster. This includes those who may have had Covid-19 in the previous four months, those who have recently become eligible by age, or those who have recently arrived in Ireland," Mr McCallion said.

Damien McCallion (File photo:

"While some vaccination centres around the country have closed or will shortly close, we are retaining 15 vaccination centres nationally to ensure that there is access to vaccination over the summer for anyone who requires it.

"The continuing involvement of many pharmacies in the Covid-19 vaccination programme will ensure that people can still easily access it and the public can check to find a participating pharmacy nearest to them."

Mr McCallion added that the HSE is encouraging anyone who has yet to get their vaccine to book an appointment online at or ring HSELive to book an appointment in a HSE vaccination centre.

"We are currently working on our plans for the autumn/winter period. We know that the flu vaccine will again be an important part of the plan to protect those who are most vulnerable and we will be ready to respond to any further NIAC guidance in relation to further vaccines in the autumn," he said.

"It is likely that NIAC will recommend a gap between vaccines, so it’s important that those who are eligible get their second booster as soon as possible."