Tánaiste Leo Varadkar has said Taoiseach Micheál Martin did not say Level 5 restrictions would last until April and May.
Speaking on RTÉ radio’s News at One, Mr Varadkar said the country was facing into tough restrictions into April and that this was well known.
“We are going in the right direction,” he said, but the number of Covid cases were still “very high” which was why it was necessary to “proceed with caution”.
The advice from the National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet) on Thursday was that schools and childcare could reopen on a phased basis during the month of March “and through the Easter break”.
But to do anything else such as reopening the construction sector or allowing more outdoor activities was too risky at this time, he said.
There were many “positives”, added Mr Varadkar, such as the vaccination programme, the phased return to school and the releasing of pressure on hospitals as Covid numbers go down.
The Tánaiste denied there were mixed communications coming from the Government because there were three parties involved. “We are all working together, but what we are communicating is bad news.”
Living with Covid-19
This follows a meeting of the Cabinet sub-committee on Covid-19 with representatives of Nphet on Thursday evening, as Ministers continued to work on finalising the Government’s revised “Living with Covid-19” plan.
Sources told The Irish Times that no further easing of restrictions is likely to be announced beyond the phased reopening of schools from early March, which Nphet said was “about the limit of what they can support”.
One senior source said it was now “out of the question” that restrictions would be eased to allow people to meet outdoors. Outdoor sports are unlikely to resume, while any reopening of the construction sector is also unlikely to be supported by Nphet.
Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly said the latest advice from Nphet said it was too early to say how and when restrictions could be eased.
“Everything is not being taken off the table, but I think it is important to look at what has happened when we have come out of more severe restrictions in the past,” he told Newstalk on Friday.
The plan will have to be approved by the full Cabinet next week.
On Thursday evening, the State’s public health team warned of a plateau in the fight against Covid-19.
The number of contacts of confirmed new cases of Covid-19 is “drifting upwards” while test positivity rates and hospital admissions are “plateauing”, officials said.