Almost 55,000 cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed in Ireland in the last 14 days, the deputy chief medical officer, Dr Ronan Glynn, has said.
Furthermore, 532 people have died of the illness so far this month, compared to 174 in the entire month of December and 164 in November.
According to the latest figures available, 54,318 cases of COVID have been reported in the Republic over the last two weeks, with 2,608 additional cases reported today.
This brings the total number of cases here to 181,922.
A further 51 deaths have also been reported, bringing the total number of deaths here to 2,818. The median age of those who died was 80 years, although the age range was 58-103 years.
Commenting on the high number of deaths so far this month, Dr Glynn noted that "we can unfortunately expect this trend to continue over the coming days".
As of 2pm today, 1,943 people with confirmed COVID were in hospital, with 214 of these in ICU. There had been 105 additional hospitalisations in the past 24 hours.
According to the chief medical officer, Dr Tony Holohan, the country is making "clear progress in reducing the incidence of the illness", however there continues to be a "very large burden of infection".
"To illustrate this, on Dec 1, when we last eased restrictions, our five-day moving average was 261 cases per day. Today, it is almost 10 times that number, at 2,430 cases per day.
"It is evident that the population is working as one to reduce contacts and interrupt further transmission of the disease. However, we are witnessing the effects of high levels of community transmission through our hospital and ICU admissions and reported deaths. We need to continue to work together to drive this infection down and bring the disease back under control," Dr Holohan said.
According to Prof Philip Nolan, chair of NPHET's Irish Epidemiological Modelling Advisory Group, the incidence of the illness "is gradually falling but remains very high across all age groups", particularly those aged 85 and older.
"A considerable effort by all of us to cut down on contacts has resulted in the R number reducing to 0.5-0.8. We have to keep it below 1.0 if we are to successfully emerge out of this current wave," he explained.
Meanwhile, according to Karina Butler, chair of the National Immunisation Advisory Committee, the arrival of the vaccine "has been a real morale booster in hospitals and nursing homes".
"As we are able to roll it out to the wider community, it will undoubtedly lift spirits. But please remember we are at a precarious time and if we drop our guard, we could undermine our efforts to combat COVID-19. For now, we must stay the course, keep contacts to a minimum, stay home and follow public health advice," she said.
More information on the latest figures in relation to COVID-19, including the number of people vaccinated so far, is available here.
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