Ireland has highest number of COVID-19 cases per million people, new data reveals

The Republic of Ireland has the world's highest number of new COVID-19 cases per million people.

New data released by Johns Hopkins University revealed the shocking case numbers - 1323 daily cases per million people in the seven days to January 10.

It's 50 percent higher than the UK, which had 881 daily cases per million people.

Ireland's Prime Minister Micheál Martin said he believes his government has "always responded effectively to the latest wave and to the latest surge of this particular virus".

He referred to a question about whether he should be "ashamed" of the high infection rate as "unfair". 

"I'm not and I think that's an unfair presentation and assertion," he told talkback radio host Pat Kenny. 

He said the latest mutation of the virus, which has sparked strict lockdowns in England, has had "a significant impact on transmission" in Ireland.

Quoting chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan, Martin said the new variant of the virus accounts for 45 percent of the most recent 92 tests - compared with 25 percent of those tested in the first week and 9 percent two weeks earlier. 

On Monday Ireland recorded eight more deaths and 4929 new cases. The country now has a total of 2344 deaths and more than 148,000 confirmed cases.