Additional reporting by Vivienne Clarke.
Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly has said that it is unlikely that Level 5 restrictions will be lifted before the end of the six-week lockdown despite the recent reduction in the R rate.
Echoing Mr Donnelly's remarks, Tánaiste Leo Varadkar has said that a earlier than planned move away from lockdown would undermine the progress that has been made in stabilising the growth in case numbers.
Yesterday, Mr Donnelly confirmed that the country's R, or reproduction rate, had fallen to below one, estimating it to be somewhere in the region of 0.7 and 0.9.
Despite the drop, he told RTÉ radio’s News at One that the National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet) wanted the figures to drop further.
Mr Donnelly said he agreed with Taoiseach Micheál Martin who said yesterday that once the figures went down, measures would have to be put in place to keep them down.
The Minister said that the focus would be on maintaining Level 5 for the next few weeks and then once figures went down, the plan for December would be to open up the country, adding that Level 2 or 3 may be adopted, or a regional approach.
“We have to figure out the best way to open up, in a way that does not increase figures,” Mr Donnelly said.
Mr Donnelly added that he could not give exact details regarding plans for December yet as the Government would have to see where the virus was at that stage and would receive recommendations from Nphet towards the end of November, adding that it was the intention to allow retail outlets to reopen.
These comments come after Mr Donnelly said that "minimum additional restrictions" would be implemented after the current Level 5 lockdown ends.
Speaking in front of the Oireachtas health committee yesterday, Mr Donnelly said this could only happen if "we all follow the basics" of infection control.
He attributed the rising levels of Covid-19 in recent months to “congregation and alcohol” at house parties and "sports celebrations".
Speaking to the committee, Mr Donnelly added that coronavirus takes advantage of "very small transgressions".
“A lot of the time it was people who had followed it to the letter for seven months and then said ‘For the love of God, I just need to let loose this once’ and who then let go for one night."
Public health figures believe the 'R' number needs to be down to 0.5 by next month to reduce daily Covid-19 figures to double digits.
A further eight deaths and 444 new cases of coronavirus were confirmed in the Republic yesterday.
Of yesterday's cases, 158 were located in Dublin, 48 in Cork, 36 in Galway, 28 in Limerick and 174 cases spread across 19 other counties.
The median age of those diagnosed is 37-years-old, while 61 per cent are under 45 years of age.
Mr Donnelly also told the committee that three new hospitals in Cork, Galway, and Dublin will be completed by the end of the year.
Mr Donnelly told members that a “spatial brief” and costings document was being developed under the guidance of Prof Frank Keane, chairman of the Elective Hospitals Oversight Group, which was set up last year and is carrying out a catchment area analysis for the new facilities.