IRELAND can expect to see up to 1,000 people lose their lives due to Covid-19 in January, according to Chief Medical Officer (CMO) Dr Tony Holohan.
As of Wednesday evening, 485 people in the country been killed by the virus, with just over a week left to go in the month.
But with the UK variant spreading rapidly, and after a number of recent outbreaks in resident homes, Dr Holohan said that January's current death toll will continue to rise and could double before the month is up.
In a letter to Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly on January 14, the CMO expressed concerns about the country's surging infection rates, and called for strengthened efforts to prevent the spread.
"Given the large number of recently notified outbreaks in long term residential care facilities and hospitals, we can, unfortunately, expect to see, in addition, a large scale of mortality in these settings," Dr Holohan wrote.
"It is therefore anticipated that a total of at least 500-1,000 deaths may occur in the month of January."
He noted in the letter the impact of the UK variant, which began spreading quickly through the south-east of England in November and December.
"Data on traveller numbers indicates that between December 1, 2020 and January 11, 2021, over 190,000 people arrived into Ireland by air, with 37,000 of these coming from the UK and almost 70% of the latter number flying in from airports in the south-east of England," he said.