The Irish Times is calling Ireland the "world's worst pandemic hotspot" as the country of 4.9 million sees new daily Covid-19 cases per million people reach levels beyond both the UK and the US.
World-renowned epidemiologist Eric Feigl-Ding has pointed out Ireland's dire situation, saying the virus is "epically surging" and suggesting that the UK mutant strain has been largely responsible for the spike in cases.
Local media reports blame the Christmas break and a lack of social distancing requirements for the dramatic rise in infections.
AFP reports Ireland saw the biggest increase in new cases per day anywhere in the world on January 8, with a mighty 312 per cent spike, or 5100 new cases per day.
Slovenia follows with 65 per cent more, or 1900 cases; Portugal (65 per cent, 6100); Argentina (52 per cent, 10,900); and Nigeria (52 per cent, 1200).
Ireland's figure was the highest among countries which have registered more than 1000 daily cases over the past week. It had one of the lowest infection rates in Europe in November and December.
Ireland's head of emergency response, Mike Ryan, told reporters Ireland had "suffered one of the most acute increases in disease incidence of any country in the world".
He said the surge in cases was the result of increased social mixing and a reduction of physical distancing.
"New variant strains have not been the driver of new transmission," he said.
The Irish Times, citing World Health Organisation infection disease epidemiologist Maria Van Kerkhove, reports the country is experiencing "near vertical growth".
"Transmission was down to single digits in most countries in Europe over the summer," Van Kerkhove said.
"And we lost the battle because we changed our mixing patterns over the summer, into the fall, and especially Christmas and New Year holidays. The number of contacts that individuals had and their families had increased significantly."
Irish leader Micheál Martin defended a decision to open up ahead of Christmas – a decision critics say led directly to the largest wave in Europe.
"We accept our responsibility, but we have acted at all times in responding effectively to the waves that have emerged," he told Newstalk radio.
But his critics were stinging.
Seán L'Estrange, a social scientist at University College Dublin, told The Guardian the decision was "reckless".
"They disregarded the evidence. Even Boris Johnson eventually U-turned and cancelled Christmas in England but our crowd over here stuck their fingers in their ears. It was weak and sentimental government," he said.
The WHO has urged Ireland's residents to do everything they can to prevent the virus circulating further, including wearing masks, ensuring ventilation in crowded indoor spaces and social distancing.