The Taoiseach says health officials are ‘hugely concerned’ as the so-called ‘UK variant’ which emerged in December now accounts for 90 per cent of Covid-19 cases.
It comes as the death toll from the virus exceeded 4,000 here yesterday, and more than 6,000 on the island of Ireland.
57 additional deaths were reported last night, along with 650 new cases.
There are 765 patients in public hospitals with the virus, while there are 154 in ICU.
Dr Gerald Barry, an assistant professor of virology in UCD, says the decline in cases may slow down in the coming weeks.
Dr Barry said: “I think it’s a little bit concerning that the UK variant has become such a dominant force in the country, up to 90 per cent of cases are being caused by the UK variant and that’s naturally going to have an impact on cases and eventually deaths as well because it will be harder to suppress the UK vriant.”
Speaking at Wednesday night’s National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet) meeting, deputy chief medical officer Dr Ronan Glynn said: “Although we have made great progress, the situation remains precarious.
“Almost 90 per cent of cases in Ireland are the B117 variant. 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.”
Micheál Martin told a Fianna Fáil parliamentary party meeting that the easing of Level 5 restrictions will be complicated by the fact that 90 per cent of Covid-19 cases in the State are the UK B117 variant.