NPHET has warned the government against any significant easing of Covid restrictions over the next few weeks amid fears of a fourth wave before the summer.
Public health officials gave a sobering presentation to a group of senior cabinet Ministers last night.
The cabinet sub-committee on COVID heard presentations from Deputy Chief Medical Officer Dr Ronan Glynn, modelling expert Prof Philip Nolan and head of the vaccines taskforce Prof Brian MacCraith as part of 5 hours of consideration of restrictions.
A number of Ministers present said the health officials stressed the risk of a significant resurgence of the virus before the summer, fueled by the B117 variant.
They said the analysis showed how precarious things still are - and that NPHET advised against any significant easing of restrictions over the coming weeks, saying case, hospital and ICU numbers are still worse now than at previous peaks.
The health officials also said there would be significant gains from keeping the virus suppressed through lockdown until more people have been vaccinated.
However, the measures planned for easing in April are still on the table as the cabinet meets this afternoon.
They include lifting the 5km travel limit, allowing some construction to return, some outdoor meet-ups resuming, the return of underage sport, the full return of schools and possibly resuming click-and-collect shopping.
However, they won't all be done on April 5th and will likely be phased through the month instead.
The challenge for cabinet today will be reaching a compromise that goes far enough to secure continued or renewed public buy-in for restrictions while also heeding the very stark warnings from NPHET.
Reporting by Sean Defoe