Tanisti Leo Varadkar said there was no «secret plan» to impose further restrictions on Covid-19 before the new year.
Reports over the weekend indicated that ministers were briefed on the possibility that stricter restrictions would be needed, but were later dismissed as «speculative» by the chief medical officer.
Varadkar said he was «confident» that the new measures that came into effect on Monday, including the 8pm hospitality closure, would be enough to combat the next wave of Omicron.
But he said nothing could be ruled out, especially if the situation in hospitals deteriorated.
Varadkar said, «There are no plans to tighten the restrictions further, and the restrictions that will come into effect today will last until January 30.
«Of course, we cannot rule out the ability to loosen restrictions early or having to tighten them if there is a sudden deterioration or a significant deterioration in terms of the picture in our hospitals, for example.»
He added: «(There is) a secret plan for any additional restrictions before Christmas for the New Year or even in January.
«But the caveat, of course, is that nothing can be ruled out in this pandemic.»
Mr Varadkar said the government is aware that the 8pm closing time for hospitality may lead to more social gatherings in private homes.
He said that the goal is not to prevent people from mixing but to reduce it.
“The goal is not to prevent people from mixing with others, but to try to reduce it by about 30%.
«This is what our public health advisors believe is necessary to counteract the Omicron wave,» Tanaisti told reporters on Monday.
“What I would say to anyone thinking of visiting someone else’s house or attending a small house party, first and foremost, directive is to have no more than four families in the house.
«We’re asking people to follow these directions. But crucially, and perhaps just as important, get a booster if you can.»
“You will be more protected if you take this extra dose. Don’t go to anyone else’s house or any house party if you have Covid symptoms.
«Isolate, get tested, and if you don’t have any symptoms, consider antigen testing. People will still be able to mingle relatively safely.»
Varadkar said the next few weeks would see very high case numbers «that will scare people».
«But I don’t think it will translate into the levels of hospital admissions or intensive care unit admissions or deaths that we might fear,» he added.
«But that won’t be a straightforward reading for another two weeks.»
Asked if he was confident that the new measures would work, he said, «Yes, I’m confident. I’m not sure, but I’m confident.»
Earlier, the chief medical officer said Ireland may still be able to avoid more severe restrictions.
Dr. Tony Holohan said Monday that the National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet) will continue to monitor the spread of the Omicron variant over Christmas and did not rule out the need for stricter measures to protect the health system.
Health officials said Omicron is now the predominant Covid-19 strain in Ireland.
The Center for Health Protection Surveillance has estimated that approximately 52% of reported cases are now due to the Omicron variant.
From Monday, restaurants and bars, except for takeaway and delivery services, must close at 8 p.m.
The government also said there should be no indoor events after 8pm and attendance at indoor and outdoor events earlier in the day would be restricted.
Dr Holohan said he hoped the measures would be enough to stem the sharp rise in infections, but cautioned people to be «convinced not only by the letter but the spirit of those directives».
«We believe that if we can follow the procedures that have been mandated and decided by the government that we can have without resorting to further restrictions, so my message now is to focus on what is ahead.»
He said that no decision had been made on additional restrictions, but stressed that health officials would continue to monitor the situation closely in the coming days.
«We’re not going away for Christmas,» he said.
«We continue to monitor the effects, but a series of measures are now mandated by the government. They are only effective today. We believe they will significantly reduce the overall volume of social contact across the community.»
Dr. Holohan has called on people to reduce the number of people they meet over Christmas.
«Because things are open, it doesn’t mean you have to do them necessarily.»
He declined to speculate whether schools would remain closed after the Christmas holidays amid fears of the virus spreading among children.
He said Neft will closely monitor the situation.
The chief medical officer stressed that vaccines and booster punches should protect people from severe disease.
Asked on RTE if next Christmas would look normal, he said: «My focus is on this Christmas, because we are in a situation right now, and I don’t like to use comparisons like tidal waves and so on, but the contagion that this is going to be before us now directly.
«I will not speculate where we will be at next Christmas in relation to all these things. My focus, as I say now, is on the imminent danger that exists from the point of view of public health arising from the Omicron for the Irish public.»
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