3569 new cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed this evening – along with 63 additional deaths.

6 of the deaths confirmed happened in November and December – while 56 have occurred this month.

Of the cases confirmed this evening – There are 169 in Waterford, 123 in Wexford, 59 in Kilkenny and 35 each in both Carlow and Tipperary.

Dr Tony Holohan, Chief Medical Officer, Department of Health said: “We are seeing some early signs of progress with daily cases numbers and positivity rates. We can take some hope in them, but we have a long, long way to go. In the coming weeks ahead, we will need to draw upon our reserves of resilience from springtime as we can expect to see hospitalisations, admissions to ICU and mortality related to COVID-19 increase day on day.”

“The best way that we can all support one another now is to stay apart. Sadly, what we are seeing now is a result of the very high daily confirmed case numbers we experienced for successive weeks. To ensure our hospitals and loved ones remain protected, and stay alive to receive the vaccine, please continue to follow public health advice and stay home.”

“At this challenging time, it is important to remind those that need acute care that hospitals are there for those that need them. No one should ignore any worrying signs they may need medical attention, such as lumps, chest pain or other new symptoms. Phone your GP if you have any concerns, not just those related to COVID-19.”

The news comes as HSE says it’s been left with “no alternative” but to ask staff who are close contacts but don’t have Covid symptoms to return to work.

It’s now facing “significant” staffing problems – with over 7 thousand workers unavailable across the healthcare system.

There are now 1,750 people with the virus in hospital – while 6 hospitals are dealing with over 100 Covid patients.

HSE Chief Operations Officer Anne O’Connor says asking asymptomatic employees to go back to work is a measure of last resort.

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