Ireland has to stop looking at its COVID-19 rates and start easing restrictions, according to Professor Jack Lambert.
The professor of infectious diseases was speaking as a number of rules are to be scrapped in Northern Ireland.
He told Newstalk Breakfast we have to start moving on, as eliminating the virus completely is not achievable.
"This is going to be an annual pandemic, similar to influenza.
"Maybe we can cross our fingers and hope that this virus will just disappear, but it's very unlikely.
"We're in a different place then we were... in March 2020, so we need context now.
"We don't need to be looking at numbers - 'the numbers are up, the ICUs are going to become overwhelmed' - this is the rhetoric that people have been hearing over the last 18 months.
"It's the wrong message: the message is how do we live safely with COVID?
"It's not about numbers anymore, it's about every life counts: so what can we do to save our lives - psychologically, economically - and how can we make sure we're not putting the rest of Irish society at risk by infecting them with COVID.
"We still are going to have a risk, despite vaccination, of transmitting COVID".
'Collateral damage' from COVID
He says it is "absolutely" time for Ireland to ease more restrictions.
"I think it's time for all sorts of reasons... if we do it properly, it's safe to do and then it's important to do because the collateral damage from COVID is huge.
"We give numbers of ICUs with COVID - what about the numbers of ICUs with people with attempted suicides? People with all sorts of things that have happened because of COVID.
"We're not taking into account those kind of things, the economic consequences.
"So yes, we have to start easing restrictions - I think it's the right thing to do and if you look at the rest of the world, there's evidence that we can do it safely".
Prof Lambert says we should have got people back to work months ago.
"Context is important - vaccines we're up in the numbers, we're going to have to do boosters vaccinations in the future.
"We're going to have to look where we've missed vaccination of people.
"And we need to look to what we can do to safely move back into the workforce, safely move back into the community.
"And we should have done that months ago, in my opinion, we keep on kind of delaying, delaying, delaying saying 'What if'".
And he says we need to plan around this.
"Let's just start planning for booster vaccinations, let's start planning for modifications of our lifestyle.
"A lot of the facilities we have are not ventilated properly - from schools to pubs - and people continue to let their guard down".