HSE CEO Paul Reid says 'very sick' families and young people are among those being treated for coronavirus in Irish hospitals.
He says there's still 'relentless' pressure on the hospital system, but health officials have not yet had to use any intensive care surge capacity.
The most recent figures show 1,792 patients being treated in hospitals, along with 173 patients in intensive care.
Recent days have seen daily case numbers remain between 3,000 and 4,000 - with Mr Reid telling Newstalk Breakfast there's a 'lag effect' when it comes to recent lockdown measures taking effect.
He said it's clear people have 'significantly changed' their behaviours compared to the Christmas period, with close contacts falling just below three.
However, he stressed: “That does take time to take effect, both in terms of cases and particularly the impact in hospitals.
“Nobody can change what happened in the past… but from today we can change what happens in our hospitals in the next two or three weeks."
Mr Reid said the the strain on the hospital system has been 'relentless and very significant', but they're currently not expecting all available ICU beds to be occupied by the weekend.
He said: “We have scaled up more available ICU beds. You’ll be familiar with the figure of 286 beds across the country ICU… that’s now standing at 302, with the great work of our ICU teams.
“As of last night, we had 32 ICU beds available across the country… we have not gone into what we called our surge capacity.
"But if the level of projections of what we have currently in the hospital transpire into ICU, that will increase probably closer to 350."
'Nobody wants this horrible virus'
The HSE boss stressed some of the patients in non-ICU hospital beds are still very sick with the virus.
He said: “We do have over 200 people who would also be receiving advanced respiratory support - so oxygen levels - outside of ICU.
"What our nurses and doctors is seeing, is high level of younger people really very sick… high level of older people… families being treated - mothers, fathers, partners, daughters - all combinations of families being treated in our wards.
“Nobody wants to get this horrible virus, but if you do our hospital systems are still there."
Mr Reid said there's still a very high level of testing being carried out, with over 180,000 tests completed over a seven-day period last week and the positivity rate still just below 20%.
He reiterated that the actions people take now to prevent the virus spread 'will save lives'.