Plans to allow indoor dining to resume from July 5th are “still on track”, the Tánaiste has said.
Leo Varadkar says there's reason for concern over the Delta variant, but there's not reason for panic.
The next easing of restrictions is due to take place on July 5th, bank holiday Monday.
If restrictions are eased as planned, indoor service in bars and restaurants is set to resume for the first time since Christmas.
Other restrictions are also set to be eased - including increased attendance at weddings (up to 50 from 25), the return of indoor training and exercise activities for 'pods' of up to six people, and an increase in the number of household visitors allowed.
However, it comes amid growing concern over an increase in cases of the Delta variant of COVID-19 here, as well as some potential outbreaks of the strain.
The UK government has delayed its final stage of reopening due to a rise in cases linked with the variant.
On his way into Cabinet today, Mr Varadkar said a final decision on restrictions will be made next week.
He said: “When it comes to the Delta variant, there is definitely reason for concern - not reason for panic at this stage.
“We’re still on track to ease restrictions further on July 5th, but we won’t be able to make a decision on that until next Thursday - when we’ve seen more data and have the most up-to-date advice from NPHET.”
He warned the Delta variant is likely to become dominant in Ireland, but it's important to see how that impacts on case and hospitalisations numbers.
He said that while the strain is currently dominant in the UK, they've been able to keep indoor dining open.
"So far, so good"
Taoiseach Micheál Martin, meanwhile, said it’s “so far, so good” when it comes to the reopening plan.
He said there has been a “significant increase” in the Delta variant - something that has also been noted by the Chief Medical Officer this week.
However, he said the vaccine rollout is still going well - and next week will be a “very big week” when it comes to vaccination.
He said: “Obviously, with what’s happening across Europe and in the UK, we’ll be keeping a very close eye on the Delta variant.
“We have to take note of the increase in the prevalence of the variant… and people have to be vigilant in their personal behaviour.”
However, he pointed to the “very, very low” incidence rate of the virus in over 65s, as well as declining rates in over 50s.
He said the vaccination programme has been “really impactful”, and there’s now a “race” underway to get as many people vaccinated as quickly as possible.