The Minister for Health has said he is waiting on regulations from the Attorney General to enable him to give gardaí the power to enforce the emergency legislation restricting people's movements and ordering venues or outlets to close.

The legislation was signed into law by President Michael D Higgins last week but cannot be enforced by An Garda Síochána unless the minister signs the regulations.

Speaking on RTÉ's Morning Ireland, Mr Harris said that he expected to be able to do so over the weekend.

The Government announced additional restrictions last night which commenced today, and these also need to be reflected in regulations signed by the minister before gardaí can enforce them.

Gardaí are currently relying on Public Order and Non Fatal Offences Against the Persons legislation to enforce the new restrictions where people do not comply with requests to leave an area.

Mr Harris also said the HSE has secured additional Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) with  €20 million of equipment due to arrive in Ireland from China tomorrow.

An additional eight flight-loads of equipment will be flown in between now and 1 April,  with the overall spend on PPE rising from €15m annually to €225 million.

The minister also said the "national goal" of the new restrictive social measures is to save lives and he appealed to people to double their efforts to stay at home.

He said if Intensive care admissions reduce significantly over the next two weeks, it may be possible to "return to normal" but it would not be possible to say if this will be the case yet.

Mr Harris will hold a teleconference with medical professionals this morning to discuss the ongoing Covid-19 crisis.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar will also join the meeting via videolink.

The meeting of the medical leaders' forum is the third since the crisis began. It comes as the number of covid-19 patients being treated in intensive care rose to 71 yesterday morning. 

There are now more than 2,100 confirmed cases of the virus in this country and 22 people have died, including a healthcare worker. 

Those participating in the meeting include hospital consultants, GPs, representatives of the medical schools, microbiologists and experts in infection diseases.  

It provides an opportunity for them to hear directly from Chief Medical Officer Dr Tony Holohan about the current situation. 

Additional reporting Orla O'Donnell