Larger hospitals are being told to prioritise urgent and Covid care over the next two weeks.
The head of the HSE says rising covid cases are putting hospitals under severe pressure.
643 Covid patients are in hospital today - the highest number since February - and 94 more than a week ago.
Around a fifth are in intensive care - with just 17 adult ICU beds available nationwide.
HSE CEO Paul Reid says private hospitals will be used to take the pressure off.
Hospital managers are being asked to identify extra ICU capacity to deal with an expected rise in Covid patients.
Intensive care consultant at the Mater hospital, Colman O'Loughlin, says its potentially very worrying if the numbers go as high as predicted.
The country's 14-day incidence rate has risen to 1,217 cases per 100-thousand people.
Leitrim has the highest rate, at over 16-hundred