Families need to be "very cautious" when it comes to planning communion parties or other gatherings this summer, the HSE has said.
Chief Operations Officer Anne O'Connor says Ireland "can’t be blind to what has happened in the UK" with the spread of the Delta variant, and how it can spread among people very quickly.
There have now been over 200 cases of the variant detected in Ireland, with warnings cases will 'inevitably' increase over the coming weeks.
However, Ms O'Connor told Newstalk Breakfast there's a 'time delay' when it comes to detecting cases.
She explained: "In terms of actually detecting Delta, it’s about a 2.5 week time delay. We’ll know more as the weeks go by, but there’s certainly a reason for concern.
“Today we’re not experiencing a big surge in our health service, but we’re looking at what’s happening in the UK and elsewhere across Europe.
"We know this Delta variant is 40-60% more transmissible than the Alpha variant, which was the original COVID [strain]".
Ms O'Connor stressed that Ireland's vaccine programme is going very well, which will help protect many people against the virus and the Delta variant.
She explained: "We’re in the top six countries in Europe in terms of people having had their first dose, and we know people who are fully vaccinated have very good protection against this variant.
“People who are unvaccinated or who have only one dose of their two-dose vaccine are far more susceptible to this virus.
"Our message is really to encourage people to go for that second dose… we can see a marked difference there in terms of the protection.
“But we can’t be blind to what has happened in the UK, and we are seeing younger people becoming sick over there and going into hospital.”
The concerns over the Delta variant has led to increasing uncertainty over whether the planned next phase of reopening will go ahead as planned on July 5th.
Ms O'Connor said there's no doubt people are now tired of restrictions, but added "none of us wants to get back to a stage where we end up with family members very sick in hospital or, god forbid, dying”.
First communions and confirmations will be able to go ahead again if the restrictions are eased as planned from July 5th.
However, the HSE already also appealed to bishops in the Mid-West to defer such events until September due to the high rate of coronavirus in the region.
In terms of such gatherings, Ms O'Connor said: “We are seeing cases growing where there is mixing - there’s no doubt about it. The problem is this particular variant moves so quickly, because of its higher level of transmissibility.
“People just need to be that bit cautious and ask themselves - do those things need to happen?"
"I know Communions are huge… for children and families, it’s a very big event. But in terms of the numbers of people and some of the precautionary measures - for example, being outdoor perhaps... [these] are really important.”