The number of people hospitalised with Covid-19 this week is likely to reach double the numbers seen at the peak of the first wave of the pandemic here, HSE chief Paul Reid has warned.
The health service is set to come under increasing strain in the early part of this week, as the numbers requiring in-patient treatment has given rise for concern.
Figures released yesterday showed that the Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC) was notified of 6,888 new Covid-19 cases, with 1,452 patients hospitalised. A total of 125 people were in intensive care units (ICU).
There had been 100 additional hospitalisations over the previous 24 hours.
In addition, eight new deaths were reported.
Of the cases reported yesterday, 2,088 were in Dublin, 862 in Cork, 469 in Limerick, 405 in Wexford, 320 in Waterford and the remaining cases were spread across all other counties.
"Early this week, we will likely be at double what we had in the peak of last year," Mr Reid said yesterday, adding there was concern at the rising trend.
He said that there were 37 vacant adult ICU beds and 11 vacant paediatric ICU beds across the health system yesterday morning.
Speaking on RTE's This Week, he said a 'surge' agreement reached with private hospitals to access beds and give further capacity for patients had already been triggered.
"Private hospitals are already taking some urgent care, non-Covid care and support, so we have in essence triggered those processes already," Mr Reid said.
Meanwhile, consultant in infectious disease Professor Mary Horgan, who was recently appointed to the National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet) told the Herald that: "My experience of the last week or so, it really has been all hands on deck.
"People have been redeployed," she said.
"They are all trying to get over, probably the next two weeks, in managing the patients coming in, but also trying to keep non-Covid pathways that are really critical to patient care open also, because people obviously need time-critical surgery, or people will come in with heart attacks, strokes, trauma.
"So it's trying to keep those two parallel pathways open so everyone gets managed."
Prof Horgan, who is based at Cork University Hospital, pointed out that "the numbers coming in versus the numbers being discharged is always a challenge at the moment".
The chief executive of one of the country's largest hospital groups, UL Hospitals, warned the pattern of Covid-19 is rapidly worsening across the mid-west region, as 427 of her staff were unavailable for work due to the virus.
Over a four-day period, from last Tuesday to Friday, the number of staff unavailable for work within the UL Hospital Group, across Limerick, Clare and Tipperary, had jumped from 140 to 427.
In an email sent to politicians last Friday, Colette Cowan, chief executive of the group, warned that "the pattern of the disease across the region over the holiday period has been one of rapid deterioration".
Ms Cowan added that the 14-day incidence rate across the region had also "increased significantly".