People can expect tough lockdown conditions to continue until June after the battle against Covid-19 stalled in recent weeks.
Restrictions such as the 5km rule could remain in place until the start of the summer a least in a bid to get a stranglehold on the virus.
The news comes as the roll-out of vaccines remains slow and infection rates high across the country.
Medical chiefs said people need to be aware that there will be no great movement out of people’s homes for another three to four months.
Deputy chief medical officer Dr Ronan Glynn said this must be the reality in order to beat the virus.
“The plan is to proceed very cautiously on the basis of the data in front of us for as long as it takes,” he said.
“I am hopeful that as we move into June, and those who have been most vulnerable to the severest effects of Covid-19 and millions of doses of vaccines are rolled out to the population, we will be in a much brighter place.”
He also ruled out any foreign travel before the end of June.
This is despite the EU proposal to introduce a digital health passport for people who have been vaccinated, recovered from infection, or had a negative test.