Ireland healthcare system is under "severe" strain as COVID-19 infections spike due to end-of-year celebrations, Taoiseach Micheal Martin.
Only 22 intensive care beds were available across Ireland on Thursday due to a spikes in COVID-19 infections. Almost half of the country's 163,000 confirmed cases were reported over the last fortnight.
Martin told Euronews' Shona Murray that the sharp increase is due to the easing that succeeded a "very severe lockdown" imposed at the end of October.
"All the pubs were still kept closed. But hotels and restaurants and gourmet pubs were open and personal services, hairdressing and a whole range of personal services were open. And that did lead to a significant degree of socialisation.
"But the last two weeks in particular have witnessed a really dramatic increase," he said.
The latest spike is attributed to end-of-year festivities and to the arrival in the country of the UK variant which is estimated to be up to 70 per cent more transmissible.
"We have had a far greater degree of hospitalisation than we had in the first wave. And obviously with a consequent impact on ICU beds. And the ratio is not the same as the first wave, but nonetheless it is very severe on the frontline workers and on our hospitals," Martin added.
Watch the interview with Taoiseach Micheal Martin in the player above.