A stronger emphasis on facemasks could be one way to avoid tighter coronavirus restrictions, a specialist in infectious diseases has suggested.
Dr Jack Lambert is a consultant specialist in infectious diseases at Dublin's Mater Hospital.
It comes as The Taoiseach Micheál Martin, Tánaiste Leo Varadkar and a group of senior ministers will meet later to consider whether to move the country to level five restrictions.
It is the second time in recent weeks that health officials have recommended a strict lockdown, amid continuing increases in coronavirus cases and associated hospitalisations.
Dr Lambert told Newstalk Breakfast with Susan Keogh there are alternatives.
"I just look at what other countries are doing and what they've done to avoid lockdown, and what they've done to minimise the numbers.
"So for example, as an intermediary, a stronger emphasis on facemasks.
"Most European countries went into facemasks in all situations, not just in restricted situations like Ireland is using, as an intermediary to see if that would help control the surge in numbers.
"Have we done that? No.
"For example, people are coming from the North to the South right now travelling to work in building sites, they're sharing cars together - maybe three or four different families - are they wearing masks? Yes or no?
"Is anybody enforcing that?
"If the numbers go up, absolutely the only option is lockdown.
"If the numbers in the ICUs treble or quadruple - and I think that's an even more important number than the numbers circulating in the community - because it's our hospital surge capacity that's most important."
'A graded approach'
He said lockdowns should only be used when all other approaches have been exhausted.
"We have to kind of look at things: if the numbers keep increasing I would 100% agree.
"Increased restrictions in the northern counties, I think that's necessary, but look at Dublin - our numbers are better than they were previously.
"So I think we need a graded approach and we need to look at all options.
"But I abide by the Government's decision: if they're deciding in the end that they've tried all these options, none of these options are working and the numbers continue to increase then we all agree".
"The numbers are increasing here, but they're nowhere like the numbers back in March and April.
"I'm concerned about the numbers increasing, absolutely, I'm just trying to look at what can we do to keep the numbers from increase rather than just watching the numbers increase and lockdown".
"If we do go into lockdown, we need to start making sure that when we are in lockdown that we actually - when we come out of lockdown - we have all of our ducks in a row once again so that we don't use lockdown as the only option".