"Sobering". That was the word that several ministers used to sum up what they heard at Cabinet this morning.

Ironically, it was three other very different words that were meant to describe the next few days.

Taoiseach Micheál Martin had said several times in November that it would be a "safe, enjoyable and meaningful" festive period.

For many though the days ahead will be a time filled with worry and many will experience isolation.

The Government has moved to bring the shutters down on large parts of society, beginning on Christmas Eve in a version of Level 5 restrictions.

It could well be a lockdown that lasts for quite some time.

Tánaiste Leo Varadkar warned the restrictions are likely to be in place throughout January and February.

"The reality is that the culmination of what's happened in recent weeks means the outlook for the next while looks grim."

Is it all the result of the new variant of Covid-19 or did the Government get it wrong when it lifted restrictions in early December?

There had after all been warnings from NPHET in November that the reopening of the hospitality sector along with allowing household visits could not be done safely. Many medical experts it seems don't view the rise in figures as particularly surprising.

However, the Government insists that its strategy did get Covid-19 numbers down to the lowest levels in Europe and it had restricted home visits until last Friday.

The Taoiseach was adamant that he stood over this approach, saying people needed a break from restrictions.

However, the reality is that the culmination of what's happened in recent weeks means the outlook for the next while looks grim.

Indeed, the number of daily Covid-19 cases could hit 2,000 by New Year's Day. Those figures have the potential to overwhelm the health service.

There is only one positive for Government today. It is the news that the first vaccines will be administered here next week.

It's a flicker of light at the end of the tunnel, but the next steps will be slow and hazardous for many.


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