Ireland’s Covid-19 death toll has surged above 4,000 as new infections are fuelled by the highly transmissible UK variant, public health chiefs said.
The deputy chief medical officer said the situation remained “precarious” after another 57 deaths were notified to health authorities in Dublin and another 650 infections were detected.
Dr Ronan Glynn said: “Although we have made great progress, the situation remains precarious.
“Almost 90% of cases in Ireland are the B117 (UK) variant.”
There has been a total of 4,036 Covid-19 related deaths in Ireland.
Dr Glynn added: “The increased transmissibility of this variant is apparent in the current profile of the disease in households, with one in three household contacts of a confirmed case testing positive for Covid-19.
“This underlines the need for people to exercise caution in households and other settings. In particular, people should isolate immediately on experiencing any symptoms and contact their GP.”
Traffic levels across the country are continuing to rise despite Government warnings against unnecessary travel.
A senior civil servant said retail and recreational numbers on the move are up 7%, while workplace travel is up by 3%.
Ireland has imposed tough movement restrictions designed to tamp down flare-ups of infection, but recent outbreaks in workplaces and universities have caused concern.
"The increased transmissibility of this variant is apparent in the current profile of the disease in households, with 1 in 3 household contacts of a confirmed case testing positive for #COVID19." @ronan_glynn
— Department of Health (@roinnslainte) February 17, 2021
The number of people admitted to hospital with the virus is stabilising, while the positivity rate is decreasing.
On Wednesday morning, 831 people were in hospital with coronavirus, with 154 in intensive care.
The pandemic has wrought havoc with social events across Irish society.
Catholic churches across the country found novel ways of ensuring their parishioners received ashes on Wednesday while adhering to lockdown restrictions.
From takeaway containers, to envelopes and DIY ash, many embraced the tradition of rubbing ash on the forehead through innovative ways.
Coronavirus restrictions mean all church services are online.
Dublin woman Maria Corcoran made her own ashes after burning blessed straw she had kept since Christmas.
As the 35-year-old from Finglas was not able to travel beyond the 5km limit, Ms Corcoran and her six-year-old niece Annalee got creative.
“We simply put it in a steel tin and burnt it, added some holy water and used the ashes from that,” Ms Corcoran said.
“It wasn’t too bad, it was different and it wasn’t the same as going to Mass and getting a blessing.
“It’s nice just to have that little bit of spiritual connection.”
Meanwhile, four people are set face charges for alleged breaches of Covid-19 regulations over a controversial Irish parliament golf society event in Co Galway last year.
It is understood two of the people to be charged are politicians.