LEO VARADKAR has insisted that the Government will be reopening the country carefully and cautiously, dealing a hammer blow to those who'd hoped for an early exit from lockdown.
The Tánaiste says that Ireland can quickly "bounce back" from the worst economic effects of the Covid-19 pandemic, comparing the current situation to the financial crash of 2008.
But he warned that a strong recovery won't happen by simply reopening society as soon as possible, stressing that Government will be "cautious" about lifting lockdown.
Ireland is currently in Level 5, and restrictions are due to stay as they are until March 5.
A review of the situation will then take place and the country will adjust restrictions and public health advice accordingly.
It's understood that a revised 'Living With Covid' Plan is being drafted by the government as well, and will be published in the coming weeks.
The top priority for government at the moment is the reopening and maintenance of schools, and Varadkar warned that a resumption of non-essential businesses may have to be delayed if Ireland's schools are unable to resume as normal.
"The main thing we want back next, of course, are Leaving Certs - for obvious reasons," Varadkar said.
"And then we'd be thinking about junior infants and senior infants, and a return on a phased basis across March and into April.
"And we think that's achievable without cases going up again.
"But the downside of that, unfortunately, is that it does mean that other reopenings, for example reopening of businesses, really can't be done until we have the schools back.
"Schools is the priority."