A further 100 people died from Covid-19 over the weekend.
With 1,378 new cases confirmed in the past 24 hours, 145 in Cork, the members of the Special Committee on Covid-19 Response will meet today to discuss extending the Level 5 restrictions beyond the original date of January 31st.
An Taoiseach Micheál Martin has confirmed that restrictions will be in place for the first half of 2021, although they may not remain at Level 5 throughout that time, with schools unlikely to reopen until March.
Speaking to RTÉ’s Brendan O’Connor show on Saturday, Mr Martin said: “I’m not saying there will be a six-month lockdown but I’m saying there will be a conservative reopening.”
The Taoiseach said he would need to see case numbers reduced to the hundreds before rules on gatherings could be relaxed, adding that the government’s main concern is the vaccine rollout and the new UK variant of coronavirus, which experts believe could be associated with a higher death rate.
Travel restrictions, tighter controls on self-isolation and mandatory quarantining for passengers arriving in Ireland from South Africa and Brazil are also on the agenda for today’s subcommittee meeting, which is chaired by the Taoiseach.
Further announcements are expected after a full meeting of Cabinet on Tuesday.
‘This is a critical time’
In the meantime, Dr Tony Holohan, Chief Medical Officer has urged the public to stay at home.
“While we are starting to make progress in reducing the level of the virus in the community, this is a critical time for all of us to hold firm to the public health advice. We must not let down our guard against this highly infectious disease and the risk it poses to ourselves and those most medically vulnerable to infection.” Dr Holohan said.
“There is a huge volume of disease in the country and the recent surge in cases continues to place an unprecedented strain on ICUs, hospitals and other frontline healthcare services. The answer lies in driving down social contacts and congregation in all settings, including in workplaces.”