Health officials have announced a further 5,471 COVID cases this evening.
This morning, there were 579 COVID patients in hospital, which is the same figure that was reported yesterday but down 9% on this day last week.
There were 122 in intensive care, which is up seven on yesterday but down 6% on last week.
The Chief Medical Officer Dr Tony Holohan said there has been a “significant and rapid deterioration” in the epidemiological situation among children aged five to 11-years-old.
He said children should avoid birthday parties and play dates for the next two weeks unless they are small and take place outdoors.
Children should also avoid sleepovers and indoor gatherings – “including communions, confirmations, nativity and other seasonal events”.
It comes as the Government issues new guidelines for children over nine to wear masks in shops, on public transport and other indoor settings.
Primary school children from third class up will also have to wear masks from tomorrow.
Meanwhile, people entering the state from abroad will have to show a negative COVID test from Friday.
Dr Holohan also urged parents to ensure their children don’t attend school or creche if they have any COVID symptoms.
He said parents should also reduce their own contacts – including working from home where possible and avoiding indoor social gatherings.
People should meet outdoors where possible, where a mask where social distancing is impossible and ensure children wear masks where recommended.
Anyone experiencing symptoms of COVID should immediately isolate and apply for a PCR test.
Where children are close contacts from school, families will be sent antigen tests.
If children develop symptoms or an antigen test is positive, they should be isolated at home with parents organising a PCR test for them.
“These measures are not what any of us want to hear, particularly at this time of year,” said Dr Holohan.
“We know that it adds an additional burden at what has been a very difficult time for all of us, particularly those with young families.
“I am hopeful that if we all make a concerted effort to follow these measures for at least the next two weeks, we can make a real difference to incidence of disease in this cohort and in the wider public.”
Meanwhile, data from the European Centre for Disease control suggests none of the 44 Omicron variant patients detected in the EU so far are suffering severe symptoms.