THERE HAS been a significant drop in the number of people being treated in hospital with Covid-19, according to new figures from the Health Service Executive (HSE).
As of 2pm on Friday, 258 people with Covid-19 were being treated in Irish hospitals, including 35 in Intensive Care Units.
The figure represents a drop of just over a quarter on the 354 cases recorded two-and-a-half weeks ago.
HSE chief Paul Reid said the numbers should offer some encouragement for the next few weeks ahead.
"Let's hope this is the start of a trend so that these patients can get home for Christmas with their families," he said.
“We can all help to stop more admissions”.
Despite the drop in patient numbers, Chief Medical Officer Dr Tony Holohan urged against complacency.
He pointed to the sudden increase in case numbers recorded this past Friday as a reminder of the unpredictable nature of the virus.
"The hard work undertaken by all of us over the last three weeks is to be commended, but we must not allow our success to date let us drop our guard against the spread of this disease," he said.
"We need to hold firm to the public health advice: keep two-metre distance, wash our hands, wear face coverings where appropriate and limit ourselves to essential contacts from our own household.
"If we can keep up high levels of compliance, we can get to where we need to be on the 1st December."
The decrease in patient numbers comes as the Government continues to iron out plans for exiting the Level 5 restrictions in place across Ireland.
Taoiseach Micheal Martin has explained that while case numbers are down they still need to decline further and the public must prepare for a very different kind of Christmas.
"I want to do better and get the numbers really down by the end of the month, that gives us better flexibility and room for the month of December and Christmas and beyond," he told RTE.
"We do want a meaningful Christmas, we do understand the significance in our lives, we also understand that one cannot be at Level 5 forever.
"The exit plan is still being worked on across Government, we will consult with NPHET (National Public Health Emergency Team)."
"I do get that people will want to meet with family. People know what works, and they know they won't be on the lash this Christmas.
"We won't have the office parties people had in previous years."