The Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has outlined how a decision on eventually lifting coronavirus restrictions will be made.
But he said there is still a long way to travel before things can return to normal.
The Dáil has been meeting to discuss the coronavirus on the eve of an announcement on the future of restrictions.
Mr Varadkar played down how much may be lifted next week.
He said while he wants to show there is light at the end of the tunnel, we are still in the tunnel and will be for some time.
He also offered condolences to all those who have lost loved ones, and paid tribute to frontline workers.
"As always, we are grateful to the extraordinary work of our nurses, doctors and healthcare staff who are giving their all to save lives and bring us through the worst of this emergency.
"As a country we owe so much to so many, and when this is all over we will have an opportunity to thank them properly."
"I know the lockdown is difficult and people are feeling frustrated, cooped up, even trapped.
"But we must keep doing what we are doing because it is working," he said.
"We owe it to those who are fighting this virus every day, and we owe it to the memory of those we have lost. As a country, we owe it to each other."
"People have a right to know when things will start going back to normal. I can inform the Dáil that a plan is being developed to ease the lock down, a roadmap to re-open Ireland.
"A roadmap to what will be a new normal.
"Unfortunately, for those who would like an immediate return to a pre-COVID world, the easement of the current restrictions will be slow and gradual and will be done in a stepwise, tiered manner.
"It will require a continuous effort to suppress and control this virus.
"Therefore, the lifting of restrictions will not necessarily mirror the manner in which they were escalated."
He said any decision will be made based on five criteria.
He told TDs: "Our five criteria are as follows: the progress of the disease, healthcare capacity and resilience, testing and contact tracing capacity, the ability to shield and care for at-risk groups, and the risk of secondary morbidity and mortality due to the restrictions themselves."
He said a phased plan will be outlined on Friday, with measures easing every two to four weeks.
Mr Varadkar explained this was to leave a period of time to "accurately assess their impact."
But he warned: "Restrictions may have to be reintroduced if it looks like the virus is going to surge back."
A step-by-step plan is also likely to be laid out for the coming months, to give people an idea of what to expect.
And he also urged those who need medical attention to seek it.
"I am increasingly concerned that some people who need medical care are not seeking it.
"I met a GP in DCU yesterday and he said he hadn’t diagnosed anyone in his practice with cancer for a month - he’d never experienced that before.
"We know cancer hasn’t gone away.
"Perhaps people are afraid of contracting COVID-19, perhaps they do not want to be a burden on healthcare staff.
"My message today to everyone is to seek help if you need it.
"GP surgeries are open. Emergency departments are open. Ambulances are operating. Please seek medical attention if you need it."
Reporting by Sean Defoe and Jack Quann