The Department of Public Health in the Mid-West region has made a plea to people in Limerick, Clare and North Tipperay to continue to stay at home and show solidarity with healthcare workers, as the number of Covid-19 infections in the three counties hit 5,200 in the past two weeks.

There have been more than 1,600 cases reported in the past seven days.

In the past 14 days, Limerick has seen more than 3,100 cases, while there have been over 1,500 cases recorded in Clare and over 600 in North Tipperary.

As of 19 January, according to Computerised Infectious Disease Reporting [CIDR] data, there have been 170 deaths associated with Covid-19 in the Mid-West region since March 2020.

Approximately 50% of these deaths were in long-term care facilities and nursing homes.

Dr Mai Mannix, Director of Public Health Mid-West, said: "While we have seen a few indications of slowdown in the transmission of the disease, with a slight decrease in daily infection numbers, the level of infection remains significantly high across the region.

"Covid-19 remains widespread in our community, and it continues to present a high risk for the vulnerable population, particularly those in nursing homes and long-term care facilities.

"The third wave continues to leave its devastating impact on our community as we are a still some time away from seeing signs of relief. Right now, we are in no position to drop our guards or be complacent, which is why we need to hold firm, stay at home, and strictly follow public health guidelines."

Dr Mai Mannix said Covid-19 remains widespread in the community

Dr Mannix went on to say that every death as a result of Covid-19 is a tragedy, but further loss of life can be prevented by staying at home and strictly following public health guidelines.

"By doing so, we break the chains of transmission in the community," she said. "Which can and will significantly reduce the risk of infection in settings in which our most vulnerable reside.

"When considering your movements and actions over the next couple of weeks, please think of those you want to protect from this illness."

Dr Mannix added that a number of outbreaks in nursing homes, long-term care facilities and workplaces are being managed and investigated.

Similarly, the Director of Public Health West has said she is "very concerned" about the level of Covid-19 virus in the west of the country.

Speaking on RTÉ's News at One, Dr Breda Smyth said the level of community transmission in Co Galway and surrounding areas of the west "must be halted."

Dr Smyth was speaking amid increased concern in Galway at the high number of cases confirmed in the last two weeks, with particular concern at the situation in Galway city, Tuam and Oranmore.

She called for "solidarity from the entire community" in the west to reduce the level of Covid-19 cases, and the number of people being treated for the virus in hospitals.