THIRTY-FIVE new confirmed cases of Covid-19 have been confirmed in Limerick, as a top health official has said: "We're clearly in a third wave".
The 14-day incidence rate of Covid-19 cases per 100,000 people has also gone up locally - from 152.9 yesterday, to 164.7 today. The national average stands at 122.4 per 100 people.
In total, there have been 321 confirmed cases of the disease across the city and county in the last fortnight.
Across Ireland, there has been another spike in number of coronavirus cases, as we count down to Christmas.
There have been 727 confirmed cases of Covid-19 reported overnight, bringing the total to 80,267 since March and the onset of the pandemic. No new deaths have been reported from Covid-19, with the number of people who've died from the condition remains at 2,158.
This comes against the backdrop of travel being banned between Ireland and Britain, where a new Covid-19 strain has been discovered.
At a briefing this evening, the chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan and others have urged people to limit their contacts and "have a safe a Christmas as possible."
Prof Philip Nolan, who chairs the Irish Epidemiological Modelling Advisory Group said: "We're clearly in a third wave."
Of today's new cases, 359 are men and 366 are women. Sixty-two per cent are people aged under 45 years of age, with the median age 36 years.
The majority of the new cases - 311 - are located in Dublin, with 51 in Kilkenny, 48 in Wexford, plus 44 each in Donegal and Cork.
The remaining 229 cases are spread across 19 other counties including 35 in Limerick, nine in Clare, 24 in Kerry and five in Tipperary.
As of 2pm today, 241 Covid-19 patients were hospitalised, of which 29 are in intensive care.
There have been 18 additional hospitalisations in the past 24 hours.
Dr Holohan added: "The situation has deteriorated rapidly in recent days. A total of 3,837 cases have been notified in the past seven days. The five day rolling average has increased from 339 on December 17 to 616 on December 21, an 82% increase. It is now as important as it was back in March to limit your contacts and protect your loved ones.”
Dr Lorraine Nolan, chief executive of the Health Products Regulatory Authority, said: “Today we welcome a highly significant announcement from the European Medicines Agency in their recommendation to approve a first vaccine for Covid-19 in Europe. It is a key development in our continued efforts to tackling this pandemic. This will become one additional defence in our suite of public health actions to protect us from Covid-19.”
Professor Nolan added: "The virus is transmitting very rapidly, faster than we have seen at any point since March. The case numbers are growing at least five to seven per cent per day and, of particular concern, across all age groups.”
Dr Cillian De Gascun, medical virologist and director of the National Virus Reference Laboratory, said: "To date, the novel Sars-CoV-2 UK variant has not been detected in Ireland. However, as we know the variant has been circulating in the UK since September, therefore we cannot exclude the possibility that the variant is already in Ireland. We are prioritising the sequencing of cases with confirmed or suspected links to the UK."