The Cabinet is expected to receive advice from public health experts on Wednesday that will examine the possibility of easing restrictions for close contacts.

If the rules are changed it would be followed by engagement with employers and an updated communications campaign would also commence.

Earlier, the Taoiseach said that the Government understood the pressures on many parts of the economy as a result of the current rules.

Micheál Martin said that the public health authorities would interrogate the latest guidance from the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control.

That guidance allowed for shorter quarantine periods in the case of high and extreme pressure on healthcare systems and society.

There is now an expectation politically that this guidance will form the basis of advice that will go to Government.

The Taoiseach also said he is confident that further restrictions will not be necessary to curb high case numbers in the current Covid wave, as he said he favoured the system of voluntary vaccination.

Speaking this afternoon in Cork, Mr Martin said that while the Omicron wave of the virus had not yet peaked, he was satisfied that further restrictions can be avoided. He said he expected case numbers to peak within a week or a fortnight.

Asked if he was confident further restrictions could be avoided, Mr Martin said: "I am. That said, we want to give it another week or two. We haven’t peaked yet - Covid has had many twists and turns, but I am confident that if we maintain the same focus we can get through this wave."

He also said the system of voluntary vaccination would be maintained.

He was responding to reports that the National Public Health Emergency Team will consider mandatory vaccination, and that the Department of Health is to prepare a paper on the issue.

Mr Martin insisted that vaccination was the key to curbing the spread of Covid-19, but he said he favoured a voluntary programme.

"First of all, NPHET will examine every issue so that they can give advice to government," Mr Martin said.

"Vaccination is the big game changer here. I favour voluntary. I fully respect that people will obviously explore the issues and research them and so on but, from my perspective, we have achieved one of the highest rates in the world through a voluntary system and that is the system we will maintain."

The Fianna Fáil leader has also told RTÉ News the Cabinet would not be reviewing the 8pm closing time imposed on bars, restaurants and other hospitality outlets this week.

Read more: Latest coroanvirus stories

Earlier the leader of Sinn Féin earlier said she does not think mandatory vaccination is a good idea, and added that such a move could be "counterproductive".

Speaking on RTÉ's News at One, Mary Lou McDonald said people have demonstrated that they are thoughtful and responsible when it comes to keeping their families and communities safe.

"The public have voted with their feet in huge numbers and taken up vaccination," she said.

"A small percentage have not, and that of course is their right, but I don't think you will win people to the desirability of vaccinations by making it compulsory.

"In fact, I think it could have a counterproductive effect."

Ms McDonald said there are other things that need to be dealt with as a matter of urgency, such as safety in schools.

Mary McDonald's full interview on RTÉ's News at One:

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The chief executive of the Health Service Executive, Paul Reid, has also said he would not favour a move to make vaccinations mandatory, but told RTÉ's Morning Ireland that the decision will lie with the Government.

In a statement, People Before Profit TD Richard Boyd Barrett said mandatory vaccination would be "unnecessary, ethically wrong and counter-productive".

Mr Boyd Barrett added: "Ireland has achieved one of the highest vaccination up-takes in the world through the voluntary approach. It would be a mistake to break from that approach now."

Additional reporting Paschal Sheehy