Irish public health experts recommend highest 'Level 5' Covid-19 restrictions

Irish chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan has recommended the toughest 'Level 5' restrictions be implemented in the Republic of Ireland.

The leaders of the Republic of Ireland's three coalition parties are to meet with chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan on Monday to discuss a potential return to lockdown.

The National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET), chaired by Dr Holohan, has made the stark recommendation that the country moves to Level 5 - the highest level of the Irish Government's coronavirus plan - as the country struggles to get to grips with rising infections, with almost 1,000 cases confirmed over the weekend.

The Cabinet will ultimately decide whether to act on the advice, but ministers are said to have been shocked at the proposal, and there are concerns about the potential social and economic fallout.

If approved by Cabinet, it would represent a return to the strictest possible public health measures, similar to those seen in April and May. However, in a Level 5 scenario, schools and creches would remain open. People would be asked to stay within 5km (three miles) of their homes, while all non-essential retail outlets would close.

The total number of Covid-19 cases in the Republic of Ireland is now 38,032.

There were 364 cases were reported on Sunday, with the highest numbers in Dublin, Cork and Donegal. There were 613 confirmed cases reported on Saturday.NPHET member Dr Mary Favier, former president of the Irish College of General Practitioners, said Ireland is on course to see between 1,500 and 2,000 cases a day by next month if stricter measures are not adopted.

The Cabinet is not expected to meet until Tuesday, but the Covid-19 oversight group, comprising of top civil servants, will also examine the proposal on Monday.