The threat of the Delta variant is one “big hurdle” the country has to overcome in its battle against Covid-19, according to the head of the HSE.
Paul Reid said the public can approach the threat with a level of confidence that stems from the vaccination programme.
In his weekly HSE briefing, Mr Reid also sad the five-day and seven-day averages have jumped by 160% and 150% respectively compared to two weeks ago.
Compared to last week, the overall 14-day incidence rate is up more than 66%.
Health officials say their concerns about the potential impact on hospital numbers over August remains high.
“It’s equally true or fair to say that there’s one big hurdle in our way for the moment that we have to cross and that’s related to the Delta variant and its potential impacts between now August and September,” Mr Reid said.
“Like trying to cause any hurdle, we should go into with a level of confidence.
“Confidence that the vaccination programme is giving more protection everyday to more and more people.”
Mr Reid said indications of the virus shows that it is growing nationally.
“We can see very strong impact overall compared to last week, the five day average is up 95%, the seven day average is up 93%,” he added.
In July, over a million vaccines alone were administered.Paul Reid
“Compared to two weeks ago, the five day average is up 160% and the seven day average is up 150%.
“But on vaccinations, equally, we should take good confidence with what’s happening there and the programme there’s no doubt it’s really flying.
“In July, over a million vaccines alone were administered.
“If we are achieving higher numbers of Covid patients throughout August and September, it poses a real threat to the progress we’ve been aiming to make in the last few weeks in getting back to non-Covid care, to get back to elective care and none of us want to turn the dial back down on that one again.
“So this is a time we want to ensure that in the coming weeks our exhausted some healthcare workers do get a chance to get a break during the coming weeks.
“We know the impact it’s had on them for the last 16 months.”
A total of 5.34 million vaccines have been administered to date, with three million people having received their first dose, and almost 2.5 million people are fully vaccinated.
Testing volumes are up 15% compared to last week, with a positivity rate of more than 10.5%.
Mr Reid said that testing sites in Dublin, Donegal, Louth, Galway and Meath are particularly busy.
Some 75% of cases have been adults under the age of 34 and 32% under the age of 14.
HSE chief operations officer Anne O’Connor said the outpatient waiting list has grown considerably in recent months.
There has been a delay in publishing updated data following the cyber attack against the HSE.
Our ability to do outpatient work was severely compromised and impacted even further by the cyber attack.Anne O'Connor
Ms O’Connor said the waiting lists have grown “really very significantly” and now stand at over 647,000 people.
“That’s a huge number, and something that we have to really focus on,” she added.
“We had started to make some inroads in our outpatient list late last year, but the surge from January to March really affected that.
“Our ability to do outpatient work was severely compromised and impacted even further by the cyber attack.”
It comes as a further 1,189 cases of Covid-19 were reported in Ireland.
As of Thursday morning, there were 95 Covid-positive patients in hospital, with 23 in intensive care.
Deputy chief medical officer Dr Ronan Glynn said the Delta variant is now dominant across the EU.
“In recent weeks, we have noticed a sharp increase in the level of travel-related cases of Covid-19,” Dr Glynn added
“As disease incidence increases, both here in Ireland and across Europe, it is important that, if you intend on travelling, you are aware of the disease profile in the area you are visiting, as well as the public health measures in place locally.
“Only those who are fully vaccinated or who have recovered from Covid-19 in the last 180 days should be considering international travel at this time.
“If you have recently returned to Ireland and have any symptoms of Covid-19, including fever, cough, headache, sore throat or a blocked or runny nose, then please self-isolate and get tested without delay.”