IRELAND'S DAILY Covid-19 infection rate is the worst in the world, new figures have confirmed.
Earlier this week, Ireland was named as having the worst Covid-19 infection rate in all of Europe, with more than 45,000 new cases of the virus in one week; but with cases continuing to spike exponentially in almost every county, Ireland is now the worst-hit country in the world with the disease.
Ireland's health service, test and trace scheme and public hospitals are under immense strain with the sheer volume of people being confirmed to have the disease, and younger, healthier people becoming ill with the virus, some requiring hospitalisation.
Over the weekend, a hospital in Donegal was forced to apologise after patients were treated inside ambulances which were queuing outside the emergency department for several hours as there were no beds available; it is expected that the hospital crisis will get worse before it gets better.
According to research by Our World in Data, Ireland's seven-day rolling average is 1,394 cases per million, far ahead of the UK with 810, and Portugal on 735.
While the United State has long been considered the epicentre of the disease, Ireland's current 7 day average is more than double that of America, which has a seven day average of 653.
Just weeks ago, Ireland was being praised for having the lowest incidence rate in Europe, but opening shops, hospitality and allowing household visits in the lead-up to Christmas, as well as inter-generational mixing on Christmas Day has led the country to a very new place.
The new UK variant of the disease, and ten of thousands of Irish people returning home from abroad for Christmas, are also highly likely to have contributed to the explosion in cases.
Speaking on Newstalk yesterday, Taoiseach Micheál Martin said he did not accept that the Government had sent out 'mixed messages' in the run-up to Christmas, and said the easing of restrictions in December had been responsible.
The new UK variant of the disease is now accounting for approximately 45% of all new cases identified in Ireland.
Yesterday evening, Ireland recorded a further 4,929 new cases of Covid-19, bringing the total to 152,539 after the denotification of 3 cases.
8 more people have died with the disease, bringing the death toll to 2,352.
As of 2pm yesterday, 1,582 COVID-19 patients are hospitalised, of which 146 are in ICU. There have been 156 additional hospitalisations in the past 24 hours.
Dr Tony Holohan, Chief Medical Officer, Department of Health said:
"While we are seeing the first glimmer of hope in respect of our daily case figures and positivity rates, the situation in hospitals and ICUs around the country continues to worsen day on day.
"We know that hospitalisations occur some weeks after a confirmed case is notified, and mortality after that again.
"That means we are unfortunately set for a period of time where the situation in our hospitals gets worse before it gets better."