COVID-19 testing is to continue throughout the Christmas period, amid 'unprecedented' demand for PCR tests.
Health officials have said they're starting to see a rise in new cases being detected over the last 48-72 hours, as the Omicron variant continues to spread.
The country's seven-day positivity rate continues to rise, with almost one in four swabs tested yesterday detecting COVID-19.
9,192 swabs tested yesterday found the presence of the virus yesterday - the highest in a day since the pandemic began.
The HSE's Damien McCallion told The Pat Kenny Show there's huge demand for testing due to the Christmas period and the new variant.
He said: “We were PCR capacity at around 100,000 [per week] in September - we’ve grown that now to a quarter of a million, and we’ll take further steps between now and January which will bring that up to 285,000 a week.
“Even in the busy centres - and there are areas clearly today where there’s difficulty in getting appointments - appointments are released during the day. We prioritise GP and close contact referrals, then through the day… we’re able to offer further appointments.
“Keep checking the system, and - while this is really tough advice to people - the reality is until you’re symptom-free for 48 hours, independently of the test, you’re still expected to restrict your movements.”
Mobile pop-up test centres are also being used in areas under particular pressure, as the level of demand varies from day-to-day.
Mr McCallion said testing won't stop, even on Christmas Day.
He said: "All 41 centres will open on Christmas Eve… we’ll have 25 open on Christmas Day, and over 30 on St Stephen’s Day.
“I just want to acknowledge the work of staff who’ll continue to work through the Christmas period. We’re obviously trying to give people some breaks as we go through that.”
Meanwhile, the number of COVID-19 patients in Irish hospitals has fallen to its lowest point in two months.
There are 390 patients in hospital with the virus today, compared to 429 yesterday.
The last time the number had fallen below 400 was in early October.
ICU numbers, meanwhile, have fallen below 100 for the first time in more than a month - with 98 patients currently receiving intensive care.
Health officials have expressed some cautious optimism around international data indicating the Omicron variant may lead to a reduced risk of hospitalisation and severe disease compared to Delta.
However, they've cautioned that the data is still early.