Irish passport holders vaccinated in Northern Ireland are now eligible to obtain a European Union digital Covid certificate, the Department of Health has announced.
The extension of the Covid passport scheme will also cover all Irish citizens who were vaccinated outside an EU member state, provided their jab is authorised for use in the Republic.
Northern Ireland residents can apply for their cert from Wednesday, while Irish passport holders vaccinated elsewhere outside the EU will be able to access theirs from October 21st. Applications will be accepted via a self-service portal from people aged 18 and older who can prove they have been fully jabbed by one of four approved manufacturers.
The announcement came as the the Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC) said a further 1,453 confirmed cases of Covid-19 were recorded in the State.
As of 8am on Wednesday, 300 COVID-19 patients were hospitalised, of which 60 were in ICU.
There has been a total of 5,249 deaths related to Covid-19 notified in the Republic. This includes 40 deaths newly notified in the week since last Wednesday.
Dr Tony Holohan, chief medical officer at the Department of Health, said the response to Ireland’s vaccination programme had been heartening, and now just under 91 per cent of the population aged 16 years and older were fully protected through vaccination.
“Our collective efforts have protected thousands of people from experiencing the worst outcomes from Covid-19,” he said.
“As more of the activities we enjoy become available to us this week, it is important that we continue this national effort to break the chains of transmission of Covid-19.
“Vaccination remains our best means of protection,” he said, adding people should also continue to regularly wash hands, wear a mask when appropriate, keep your distance, open windows and ventilate indoor spaces, and contact your GP if you display any symptoms of Covid-19.
A report from the HPSC covering the week September 19th-25th showed there were 9,317 cases of Covid-19 in the Republic during that period.
Of those 141 (or 1.5 per cent) ended up in hospital compared to an average throughout the pandemic of 4.3 per cent of all people who got Covid-19.
The number of cases admitted to ICU and deaths among confirmed cases were both less than five, indicating that it is mostly young people who are currently getting the disease.
There were 1,866 cases in those aged between five and 12, accounting for one in five cases in the State, but there was a significant fall in incidences in that age group in comparison with the previous week.
Cases in the 5 to 12 age group dropped from 402.2 per 100,000 in week 37 to 340.1 per 100,000 in week 38 (September 19th-25th).
There was also a fall off in the infection rate among children in secondary schools. Last week’s rate of 203.5 per 100,000 is significantly higher than the 335.3 per 100,000 recorded during the first week of the return to school between August 30th and September 5th.
Rates in the college-going population between the ages of 19 and 24 at 278.4 per 100,000 are also lower than they were at the start of September when they were 413.6 per 100,000.
The national rate of Covid-19 has remained steady over the last three weeks and was 195.7 per 100,000 as of last Saturday. The mean age of confirmed cases is 31 and the median age is 29.
Carlow has now surpassed Donegal as the county with the highest incidence rate of Covid-19 in the country. It has an incidence rate of 328.5 per 100,000, followed by Donegal (321 per 100,000), Monaghan (285.1 per 100,000) and Louth 280.9 per 100,000.
Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly said more than 4 million certificates have been issued to people vaccinated in this State. This has helped support the safe reopening of society and the return of non-essential overseas travel, he added. He said he is "delighted" to announce the expansion of the service.
Minister of State for Diaspora Colm Brophy said the development brings "renewed hope" to Irish citizens living overseas who have "endured long and painful separations from their families and friends", as it is part of the Government's commitment to removing barriers to such Irish citizens returning home.
Applicants must have received the full course of Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, Oxford-AstraZeneca or Johnson & Johnson/Janssen vaccines.
More information is available at covidcertificateportal.gov.ie
Meanwhile Northern Ireland reported the deaths of two more people with Covid-19 on Wednesday, and 1,320 new positive cases.
According to the North’s Department of Health there were 29 deaths with Covid-19 in the North, compared to 43 the week before.
As of midnight on Tuesday 356 people were receiving hospital treatment for Covid-19 in the North, with 39 in intensive care. Hospitals in Northern Ireland were operating at 105 per cent capacity.