Dr Tony Holohan issued a stark warning after daily cases of Covid-19 hit a record 16,428.
Every member of the public should consider themselves potentially infectious after a record 16,428 cases of Covid-19 were confirmed, the chief medical officer has said.
Wednesday saw the highest daily total of Covid-19 cases, with numbers in hospital rising by 47 to 568, with 93 in intensive care, up one.
A total of 22 deaths were notified in the past week, bringing the total linked to the disease to 5,912.
Dr Tony Holohan said the figures are a cause for concern, and “every individual should consider themselves potentially infectious”.
“Today, we are also reporting our highest ever number of confirmed cases in Ireland ” he said.
“The Omicron variant is accelerating rapidly in the community and, given the very high levels of transmission of this new variant nationwide, every individual should consider themselves potentially infectious, and strictly adhere to the public health measures by washing hands regularly, keeping a safe distance from others, avoiding crowded places and reducing social contacts as much as possible.”
Dr Holohan said all the latest epidemiological indicators are a “cause of concern”.
He added: “In recent days, we have seen a rise in new admissions to hospital of Covid-19 patients, at levels not seen since January 2021.
“On two consecutive days this week, over 100 patients with Covid-19 were either admitted to hospital or received a ‘detected’ test result while in hospital.”
He also warned that shops should be “avoided unless absolutely essential” in coming days.
“If you are planning to visit retail environments in the coming days, please choose retailers that adhere strongly to the public health guidance and leave any environment that feels unsafe,” he said.
“The current levels of infection we are experiencing mean that shopping in crowded environments, where physical distancing is not possible, should be seen as a high-risk activity and should be avoided unless absolutely essential – especially by those who are not yet fully vaccinated and boosted.”
People who have returned to Ireland from overseas should take antigen tests every day for five days, Dr Holohan added.
He said jabs would offer strong protection against Covid-19 and urged anyone who has not yet been vaccinated to do so.
“This time last year the public health advice was our only defence from Covid-19 and these measures are still central to our collective effort to minimise the spread of infection,” he said.
“However, as we move towards the new year, we do so with the knowledge that 92% of our population over 16 years are now fully vaccinated, the rollout of the vaccine booster is well under way and the vaccine campaign for children aged five to 11 has commenced for those with underlying conditions.
“The Covid-19 vaccine and the vaccine booster provide good protection from Covid-19 infection.
“If you are not yet fully vaccinated or are yet to receive a booster dose, please take the vaccine as soon as it is available to you.
“The best way for all of us to stay safe and to continue to protect our loved ones over the coming weeks is to keep your social contacts as low as possible, avoid high-risk activities and continue to follow all of the public health measures that we know can stop the spread of Covid-19.”