Whatever the reasons for the recent surge of the virus, the reality is that it is spreading quickly and the Government has been forced to tighten restrictions for the third week in a row.  

More households than ever have been touched by Covid-19, or know people affected.  

As the numbers continue to rise further limitations on normal life are inevitable. 

Last night Cabinet members were presented with evidence showing the behaviour of the virus now is different to the surges experienced in the first two waves.  

In other words it is spreading much faster than experts anticipated.  

For that reason the Government's main objective is to stop the movement of people and close large parts of the economy.  

While it insists schools are safe, its motivation in shutting them is to halt the circulation of about a million individuals.  

Classes will remain closed until 1 February. Many members of Cabinet are keen to get children back to school next month, however.  

While some education will continue remotely, that arrangement does not work for special needs students.

Schools that cater for those pupils are likely to remain open, while units of special needs students in mainstream schools are expected to continue.  

Education Minister Norma Foley will work on plans to cater for Leaving Cert students. If limited classes are to continue for those students, the unions will have to be in agreement. Another option would be to re-examine the dates of the Leaving Cert.  

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One sector of the economy that involves significant movement of people is construction - many workers travel long distances to sites. The Government's plan to shut down much of the industry will come as a blow to builders and developers.  

Major essential public projects are likely to remain open, such as work on social housing, the National Children’s Hospital, schools projects, utilities such as gas and electricity and some roads projects.  

The Cabinet will decide on a full list of essential construction later today. Depending on what is deemed permissible it is possible 50,000 workers will face losing work.

With the emphasis on limiting movement, the Government is stopping "click and collect" for non-essential retail and replacing it with "click and deliver".

This may work for larger businesses with a network of delivery vans, but for smaller firms it is likely to prove a struggle.  

Last night the members of the Covid-19 sub-committee were presented with information showing the increasing prevalence of a new strain of the virus. New variants are already present in Britain and South Africa.  

The Government is expected to extend the travel ban from both countries until Saturday. 

After that people arriving from Britain and South Africa will be obliged to have a PCR test showing they are negative for Covid-19.  

These tests will have to be taken 72 hours in advance of travelling. Travellers will be required still to restrict their movements for 14 days.  

It is likely this system will be extended to cover other countries - something opposition parties have been demanding for some months.  

While the schools will remain closed this month many of the other restrictions will stay in place until the virus is at much lower levels.  

Nobody is prepared to put a date on that.