IRELAND could be about to enter a second nationwide lockdown due to coronavirus, according to Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly.
He warned that country could be plunged back into how life was during the first two months of the pandemic, unless things improve quickly.
"We could be looking at another national lockdown" if we don't "take this deadly seriously," Donnelly said on Wednesday to an Oireachtas Special Committee on COVID-19 Response.
"We re at tipping point," he said. "We could be looking at another national lockdown.
"We have to take this deadly seriously and it would have been quite reasonable for [NPHET] to say 'for the next three weeks in order to protect the country and lives we simply have to stop sports'.
"To their great credit, they didn't do that.
"They said they recognised the incredibly important role sports play in our communities and our country," he added.
Mr Donnelly went on to say that the nation must now pull together and work until 'at least Christmas' to carefully and safely reopen different sections of society, including schools, offices and other services.
This, he said, needed to be done in order to "protect jobs and those most vulnerable to the virus".
When quizzed about the reopening of pubs, Mr Donnelly stressed that they simply "can't open right now".
"I really understand the pain and the anguish and the suffering that that is causing for publicans and their staff around the country," he said.
"But based on public health advice and what’s required to suppress this virus and avoid a second lockdown, that is the very clear position of NPHET.
"However, it is my firm view that the moment it is deemed safe for pubs to open they need to open."