The Republic’s Chief Medical Officer, Dr Tony Holohan, has warned again that the profile of the disease is continuing to deteriorate and individual action is needed to suppress the virus.
It comes as yesterday was the third time this week the number of daily cases in the Republic passed the 600 mark.
The State’s test and trace system has come under fire as of late, as DCU Professor Anthony Staines has criticised it as a “national embarrassment”.
“There’s been no increase in the core testing and tracing staff in the public health departments since January this year, which is in itself shocking,” he said.
“They built a testing and tracing infrastructure from scratch in March, and it was very carefully dismantled in July, which was absolute insanity.”
Prof Staines said he believes more staff and fast screening tests for Covid-19 are needed, as 617 new cases of the virus were confirmed yesterday, with five further deaths.
Some 123 cases were located in Dublin, 107 in Cork, 42 in Meath, 36 in Kerry, 35 in Galway and the remaining 274 cases were spread across 21 counties.
The Cabinet sub-committee for Covid-19 has asked the Department of Health and Department of Justice to draft legislation for a system of fines for people who breach Covid-19 restrictions, it is understood.
There have also been calls for more cross-Border cooperation after a record number of Covid-19 cases were recorded in the North yesterday.
1,080 infections were confirmed in the region yesterday, with almost a third of the North’s cases recorded over the past week as some 5,272 cases have been reported.
The seven-day infection rate per 100,000 in the Derry City and Strabane council area is now 824.3, among the highest in Britain and Ireland.
Lead negotiator for the North’s health trade unions, Anne Speed, has described the situation as a crisis.
“Well the alarm bells are ringing across the island of Ireland now and there has to be joint messaging, pooling of resources, I think there has to be common guidance now across the island, we must all increase our efforts to achieve that, that’s what has to be done,” she said.
“And also obviously, the public response, encouraging greater cooperation and commitment to following the guidance.”
Significant limits on household contacts remain in place across the North.
More stringent precautions were introduced in Derry and Strabane in the northwest where the virus has raged through the community.
Stormont health minister Robin Swann said: “The situation is grave and getting more so, on a daily if not hourly basis.”
He said he had been advised that further restrictions for Northern Ireland are likely to be required in the very near future, in the event of positive cases continuing their current upward trajectory.