Ireland could report up to 4,000 COVID-19 cases per day in the coming weeks, the Tánaiste has warned.
Leo Varadkar says the country is now 'well into' a fourth virus wave caused by the Delta strain of the virus.
He was speaking after Cabinet signed off on plans to allow indoor dining to reopen next week, albeit only for fully vaccinated people or those who can prove their recovery from the virus.
Unvaccinated children will be allowed to dine with adults once their table is two metres away from other tables.
Tánaiste Leo Varadkar said it's the only easing of restrictions people should expect for the next few weeks.
He said: “Without doubt, we’re now well into a fourth wave - a Delta wave of infections. Nobody knows for sure how that’s going to turn out, how long the wave will last, or where it will peak.
“I’m taking the optimistic view that we’ll follow a similar course to Scotland - maybe peak around 3,000-4,000 [daily] cases in the next few weeks, then fall back, and not see hospitalisations rise much above 500 and ICU not much above 50.
“But we can’t know for sure, and that’s why we need to be quite cautious in the next couple of weeks.”
He said the Government is ramping up the vaccination programme, with everyone aged over 18 now able to register for an mRNA jab.
Work is also underway to improve test, trace and isolation systems - with the Tánaiste noting antigen testing for close contacts will be rolled out from next week.
Mr Varadkar said this wave is serious, but also different to previous waves of COVID-19 due to the vaccination programme.
He said: “When it comes to deaths, 2,000 cases a day is more like 200 cases a day back in January.”
For those planning a wedding soon, Mr Varadkar said people should operate on the basis that the current rules won’t change - so any couples planning a ceremony in August should assume the crowd limit will be 50.
He added: “That might change to 100, but I wouldn’t plan on that basis.”