JUST as Ireland edges closer to the end of a second lockdown, rumours of a potential third are already beginning to swirl.
The country is set to return to Level Three restrictions on December 1, and there's even hope that a drop down to Level Two might be possible before Christmas.
But fears are mounting that the situation could take a turn for the worst after the festive period.
Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney has warned that unless the spread of Covid-19 is properly contained in the run up to Christmas, Ireland could be plunged into a third lockdown at the beginning of the new year.
Speaking on Morning Ireland on Monday, Coveney urged the public to continue follow all necessary public health guidelines, even if the prospect of a potential vaccine and seeing family over a Christmas gives them reason to flout them and relax.
"What we don't want to do is allow a situation where we are facing a third lockdown or in [the] position of tight restrictions in January because we have allowed the virus to spread significantly over the Christmas period," Coveney said.
"We are asking people at the moment under Level Five restrictions not to move around, not to move between counties and not to move outside a 5km radius of their home.
"In other words, we're asking people to stay at home and not move around.
"Level Five restrictions, I hope, will end at the start of December, but I think it's too early to give definitive travel advice to people at this stage," he added.
"We're going to have to see how successful the Level Five restrictions have been.
"As we have been reminded by the Chief Medical Officer [Dr Tony Holohan], while we've made huge progress in the last month, in the last five days that progress has stalled somewhat in terms of the numbers.
"We need to refocus on making sure that the next two weeks are as impactful as they possibly can be to get the numbers down.
"We'll then, I think, be in a much more informed place in therms of advice that we give to people in the build-up to Christmas."