The Tánaiste Leo Varadkar says coronavirus restrictions could be in place until the critical mass of the population is vaccinated in March.
It comes after the Cabinet approved new COVID-19 restrictions to take effect from Christmas Eve.
Ireland will move to level five in the coming days until January 12th - but with a number of adjustments, as well as a phased introduction of restrictions over the Christmas period.
While non-essential retail will be able to stay open, restaurants and pubs that serve food will have to close from 3.00pm on Christmas Eve.
Hairdressers, barbers, beauticians, cinemas and galleries will also have to shut on December 24th.
Retailers are also being asked to postpone their January sales as part of the new restrictions.
From midnight on December 26th, inter-county travel will be restricted - but with exemptions for people returning to their primary residence after the Christmas break.
Mr Varadkar says although the measures will be reviewed in January, they are likely to last for a number of months.
"It's difficult to speculate about the timeline, but I think it'll probably be towards the end of February or early March before critical mass of the population is vaccinated.
"And I think we need to operate on the basis that these restrictions may well be in place until then.
"Although we will review the situation on the 12th of January".
And he says the number of reported cases of the virus looks set to jump before the new year.
"What we're seeing is not just an increase in cases but we're seeing exponential growth.
"And on this current trajectory, it is likely that we'll exceed 1,000 cases a day before Christmas - and perhaps 2,000 cases a day before New Year's Eve."