Officials have announced 765 new confirmed cases of coronavirus and one further death.
It takes the death toll in Ireland to 2,205 and the total number of cases to 86,894.
The 14-day incidence of the virus in Ireland now stands at 220.1 cases per 100,000 people.
The seven-day incidence is 140 and the five-day moving average is 949.
Some 291 of the new cases are in Dublin with 63 in Cork, 59 in Monaghan, 49 in Louth, 43 in Meath and the rest spread across all other counties.
This afternoon, there were 359 COVID-19 patients in hospital with 30 people in intensive care.
The Chief Medical Officer Dr Tony Holohan said the daily figure remains lower than those reported in the days leading up to Christmas; however, he warned that this is because less people were referred for testing “for several days” over the holiday.
He warned that hospitalisations have “increased sharply” in the past two days.
“Today we are reporting that we have now exceeded the cumulative number of people hospitalised in this third wave than in the second,” he said.
“Hospitalisations have increased sharply in the last two days. This is a concerning trend which reflects the sharp increase incidence we saw in the last 10 days.”
He warned that there has also been a “steep rise” in positivity rates in the community with an average of 9.2% of the tests carried out in the past week coming back positive – up from 5.2% on December 18th.
“This indicates that the virus is increasing its foothold out in our communities,” he said.
“This is just one more reason why we are strongly advising everyone to stay safely at home to avoid transmitting or catching this virus, as it continues to circulate widely.”
He urged anyone who is feeling unwell to “please come forward for testing.”
“Know the symptoms of COVID-19, and do not delay in phoning your GP for advice,” he said.
“Self-isolate in your room if you have a cough, fever, shortness of breath or change in sense of taste/smell.
“If you are a household contact of a confirmed case you should restrict your movements for 14 days even if your own test is reported as COVID 'not detected.'
“In addition to staying at home except for essential reasons, these important individual actions will help to stop the exponential spread of COVID-19 in our communities and in turn protect the most vulnerable, our healthcare system and those who work on the frontlines.”
It comes after the rollout of the coronavirus vaccine was brought forward, following criticism over delays to the programme.
The Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine began arriving in Ireland on St Stephen’s Day and the country now has nearly 10,000 doses in cold storage.
The HSE had originally said rollout would not begin until December 30th; however, that has been brought forward to tomorrow after the Medical Council said it was “frustrating” that patients are still at risk when the vaccine was “within arm’s reach.”
"Supply and Availability"
Meanwhile, Trinity Immunologist Kingston Mills told Late Breakfast with Mark Cagney this morning that widespread rollout of the vaccine will be mainly delayed by “supply and availability.”
“Pfizer just don’t have enough of this vaccine for all the countries that want it yet. They are going to be cranking up the manufacturing now and hopefully that will be solved in the weeks and months ahead.”
He said transparency will be key to the success of the vaccine programme.