The public has been urged to “stall” the current spike in Covid-19 cases as it emerged the number of suspected cases in ICU doubled over the last week.
Liz Canavan, of the Department of the Taoiseach, called for people to follow the public health advice as the number of clusters and outbreaks in communities continues to climb.
On Thursday the number of ICU patients suspected of having of Covid-19 increased to 14 compared to three cases at the beginning of the month.
The Department of Health daily update on Thursday included notification of five additional deaths and 69 new Covid-19 cases – bringing the total number of deaths in Ireland 1,768, and the number of confirmed cases to 26,372.
Of the latest cases, 22 are in Offaly, 19 in Kildare, eight in Laois, six in Dublin and 14 are spread across eight other counties.
During a Department of Health briefing, acting chief medical officer Dr Ronan Glynn urged that those in Kildare, Laois and Offaly should pay particular attention if they have any coronavirus symptoms, and double down on health measures.
He said that there was a large number of cases notified to NPHET in these counties, which will be part of the new case numbers on Friday.
Meanwhile Chair of the NPHET Epidemiological Modelling Advisory Group, Professor Philip Nolan, told the briefing that the reproduction number of the virus is now estimated to be 1.8.
Ms Canavan said the decision by Government not to proceed with the final phase next week was “not taken lightly” but added that the number of cases have shifted from the trajectory in recent weeks.
“We have had more cases every day, more cases nationally overall, we’ve increasing number of cases in vulnerable groups, we have outbreaks in a number of workplace settings, more young people are getting the disease and there is a shift in the location of the majority of cases from Dublin to other counties,” she warned.
“As the number of clusters increases, there is a much increased chance that the disease will begin to seed more generally in the community again.
“This is the biggest risk.
“Now is not the time to relax our efforts.
“The most important thing we can do is continue to defend ourselves, our loved ones and our communities.”
She urged the public to keep their social contacts to a minimum.
While many employees have returned to work, it emerged that over three billion euro has been spent on Pandemic Unemployment Payments since the outbreak of Covid-19.
Around 8,300 people closed their PUP claims last week because they returned to work.
“Since the reopening, approximately 280,600 people have closed their claims after returning to work,” Ms Canavan added.
Meanwhile, 45,372 businesses have applied for the re-start grant, with 35,544 applications approved.
It amounts to a total of more than 146.7 million being paid in grant assistance from the government.