People need to brace themselves for a significant number of Covid-19 deaths this month as enormous levels of infection will leave too many victims of the virus in hospital and in funeral homes, Dr Tony Holohan warned last night.
The virus will continue to sweep across the country at staggering levels and he has "never been as concerned " as he is now.
The chief medical officer was speaking as another six Covid-19-related deaths were reported, along with a further 6,110 new cases.
The best effort at this point is to mitigate the growing impact of the very aggressive growth in the virus.
The incidence of disease in the community is now at a level where vulnerable people need to stay at home unless it is absolutely essential, and there is serious concern about levels of infection in the over-65s.
Professor Philip Nolan said there is a possibility of 1,500-2,000 people in hospital and 200-400 in intensive care with the virus by mid-January if we do not act to radically reduce transmission and incidence.
"It will take all of us adopting the public health measures of staying home and reducing contacts, to suppress current levels of disease."
He said the underlying level of disease is now higher than last March and April.
The pace of the spread is moving so fast that the seven-day average figures do not really reflect the full picture.
There have been an average of 70-80 new admissions to hospital each day over the past week.
The seven-day incidence in people aged 19-24 is 900 cases per 100,000 and it is 400 per 100,000 in the 25-64 age group.
It is 200 to 300 per 100,000 in the over-65s and in people aged 13-to-18. While it is lower in these age groups, it is still considered to be very high.
Dr Holohan said: "If you have flu-like symptoms, it's unlikely to be anything but Covid-19 at this time. You must self-isolate."
He again appealed to people to limit their interactions with those outside their household and appealed to people to avail of outside supports.
"Leaders and organisations in communities across the country now need to support their colleagues, neighbours, family and friends to keep to the spirit of public health advice.
"We must restrict our movements, we have to limit the people we interact with outside of our households, if we are to suppress the virus and sustain our essential services."
He also said there is little point in the HSE expanding its testing system when the virus is spreading at such a rate.
The Department of Health refused to say how many positive tests were still in the HSE system and not yet validated due to a computer system which needs to be upgraded.
Meanwhile, eight residents died at a private nursing home over the Christmas period after a Covid-19 outbreak at the facility.
Pat Kennedy, chief executive of Windmill Healthcare, which operates Killeline Care Centre, Newcastle West in Co Limerick, said: "Unfortunately, and sadly, we must confirm that we have eight Covid-19 related deaths."
He extended sympathy to their families.