DR TONY Holohan has warned that it's extremely unlikely Ireland will ever completely be rid of Covid-19.
Speaking at a press briefing on Wednesday, the Chief Medical Officer (CMO) insisted that "eliminating the virus" from Ireland was not a realistic objective.
He said that a highly successful vaccine programme will help reduce transmission, but given that the jabs are "not perfect", Dr Holohan warned that the virus will likely remain endemic in Ireland.
While infection, outbreaks and hospitalisations are largely inevitable, the CMO insisted that once enough people have immunity against the virus, Ireland will reach a point where the pandemic no longer has a stranglehold on the country.
Dr Cillian de Gasgun of the National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET) says he agrees with Dr Holohan's prediction, and believes the virus will never be fully eliminated.
"If you haven't been infected, and you haven't been vaccinated, it's likely only a matter of time before you become infected," he said.
"Our aim is to protect as many people as possible."
In spite of the dim prospect of never eliminating the virus, Dr Holohan revealed that there will come a point soon where restrictions are no longer needed.
He suggested that in a matter of weeks, the economy and indeed the entire country could have fully reopened, particularly given the recent speed of the vaccine rollout.
"The more vaccines we get done, the sooner we'll be out of all this," he said.
Ireland's vaccination programme is currently among the very best in the world, and by next week the country will have vaccinated a higher proportion of its population than the UK.