The incidence of Covid-19 is said to be at a low level in public hospitals in the west and northwest with "very little activity" in intensive care units at present, according to the Saolta group.

It manages hospitals in Galway, Castlebar, Roscommon, Sligo, Letterkenny and Ballinasloe.

The group gave an update on the latest situation to this afternoon's Regional Health Forum meeting.

The group's chief operations officer, Anne Cosgrove, said the coronavirus pandemic would have implications for the way in which services would be delivered for the next year.

She said "zero tolerance" for patients waiting for admission on hospital trolleys would be the biggest challenge.

With this in mind, Ms Cosgrove said, discussions are continuing with private hospitals so that the public system can have some level of access when the existing agreement expires.

She told the meeting a recommendation that hospitals not operate at over 80% capacity would also be challenging and already some hospitals in the group are running at 90-95% capacity.

While face-to-face outpatient appointments are resuming, the meeting was told that there will not be a return to crowded waiting rooms with such consultations in future involving a mix of phone, video or face-to-face appointments.

Anyone presenting for surgery will undergo Covid-19 testing 48 hours before they are scheduled to be admitted to hospital.

Visitor restrictions at all hospitals in the region will remain in place for the foreseeable future, Ms Cosgrove added.