THE IRISH GOVERNMENT are worried that the National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET) will advise that the country moves back into full lockdown after Christmas.
NPHET are reportedly concerned that infections will sharply rise again once Level Five restrictions are lifted on December 1 as planned.
In the run up to Christmas, fears are that the public will be more likely to flout public health guidelines, with Christmas parties and family get-togethers on the cards - particularly after what will be nine months of tough Covid-19 restrictions which have largely prevented people from visiting their nearest and dearest.
If this happens, a return to full lockdown might be inevitable, and could be imposed as early as the first week of January.
Such a scenario was discussed at Saturday's meeting between the Cabinet and NPHET officials, according to the Irish Times.
The move would however go against the exit strategy agreed within Government, which proposed the lifting of Level Five measures if the 'R' number of Covid-19 drops below 1 and cases are falling "consistently".
Speaking on RTÉ radio on Wednesday, NPHET's Professor Philip Nolan said a further lockdown in the New Year shouldn't be ruled out.
"A lot depends on how people are behaving; I don't like using the word 'behaving' but it's the only way to express it. People realise there's a problem now," he said.
"It's important to be honest with people. If, following December and January, we find levels of cases rising and in particular rising quickly we may need to intervene again.
"If we intervene early that intervention can be shorter but the amount of time that we buy ourselves and how long that might happen really depends on our individual behaviours and how strong our public health departments are."
Despite this, the Government are still hopeful that a drop in restriction levels might be possible earlier than planned.
The impact of Level Five will be examined after four weeks, at which point a review of the situation will be carried, and the Government is hopeful that a move to Level Four could be possible during mid-to-late November.