The head of Nursing Homes Ireland has said there is an "inevitability" of the coronavirus coming back into the sector.
It comes after three residents of a nursing home who contracted COVID-19 have died.
The residents were living in Kilminchy Lodge Nursing Home in Portlaoise, Co Laois which has been hit by a virus outbreak.
Tadgh Daly, CEO of Nursing Homes Ireland, told Newstalk Breakfast the public need to suppress the virus to keep the vulnerable safe.
"The last number of days and weeks has again been very challenging for residents and families and those of us that work in the nursing home sector.
"It really, really is very concerning when we see the exponential rise in community transmission because, as Dr Holohan has said, and indeed it's evident from all of the learning that we've had from the first wave, is that once it's in the community then it is very, very difficult.
"I resist from using the word 'inevitable', but I think there is an inevitability around it that it is going to get into nursing homes.
"And that's the challenge for us all - all your listeners - is to suppress it in the community, because once we saw it suppressed in July and August it was clear that the number of clusters were dropping in nursing homes - and that's the challenge for all of us now".
'We are better prepared'
"We would be saying 'here we go again', but I think it is fair to say that we are better prepared on this occasion.
"I suppose the error as it were in the first wave was not to apply the same urgency to nursing homes as to the acute hospitals.
"So it is critical that we keep the focus on our most vulnerable in our nursing homes - and the fact that NPHET expressly mentioned in their letter, and that Dr Holohan again at the press conference last night mentioned nursing homes specifically, is an acknowledgement of the ongoing threat.
"So while none of us can be definitive, despite the best efforts of staff right across the nursing home sector, we are much, much better prepared."
"I think also it's important to say that four out of every five residents that contracted COVID in the early days recovered.
"But the key element on this occasion is testing - and obviously we have PPE, we know a lot more about the virus - but testing is on every two weeks, serial testing.
"And what that's doing is it's detecting asymptomatic cases of staff, and then on the back of that residents are tested.
"So we know a lot more about the virus, we're detecting more cases of the virus and that means we can respond appropriately".
Mr Daly also said more frequent testing couldbe rolled out in areas where there is "high transmission in the community".
On tighter restrictions for the sector, he said: "Nursing homes are at level five in all respects in reality.
"Once you look at the five level framework, [at] level three, four and five the only visitors are critical and compassionate visitors.
"So the level of vigilance, the controls that are in place are mirroring in effect, that awful phrase, lockdown - so there's no major change from a nursing home point of view to go from level three to level five".