A creaking health system, a call not to socialise very much and big political hopes pinned on a vaccine. There is an eerie sense of déjá vu about it all.

And there's more: the Dáil spent some time this evening extending the laws to allow people eat and drink outside bars and restaurants just as winter rain fell on Kildare Street.

Yes, it's a familiar story, but Covid's sour, ferocious return to centre stage was still unexpected by many.

After all the sky had softened and political days were, until recently, dominated by more orthodox, if no less intractable, challenges.

Yet recent weeks have in the words of the Taoiseach severed as a "dramatic reminder" of what the virus can do.

That reminder was set out in the starkest terms when Micheál Martin and senior ministers met on Monday night.

Yet it was not the NPHET mathematical modelling that unnerved those who gathered for the Covid Cabinet Committee meeting.

Instead, it was the testimony of the HSE's Paul Reid that triggered alarm.

Viewed as being "non-evangelical" in his approach, his fears about the pressure on the health service led many in the room to believe that even further restrictions could be close.

As the committee members took their seats in Dublin Castle for the full Cabinet meeting, colleagues were stuck by their downbeat demeanours and assessments.

Few it seems think it's possible that they won't assemble in that same room in a fortnight to be presented with more far-reaching and daunting choices.

The booster vaccine programme is to be extended those those between 50 and 59 years

At that moment, the paring back of swathes of the reopened economy could be unavoidable.

All this is occurring as the festive season is coming into view and evoking those haunting words from last year about a "meaningful Christmas".

Plus, the updated projections presented by NPHET suggest the virus could reach its peak just one week before Christmas.

The Taoiseach insisted tonight though that the changes announced today could potentially begin to stem the rising tide of cases while keeping the economy largely open.

As always in this pandemic the measure will be taken over a two-week period.

But there is likely to be some economic impact arising from today's decisions.

Nightclub operators say the midnight closing time will lead to job losses

The earlier closing time of midnight for bars, restaurants and nightclubs will impact on the staff employed in the latter sector.

There are plentiful reports already of the cancellation of events and gatherings planned for the next few weeks.

However, the Government is resisting calls to delay the winding down of the Pandemic Unemployment Payment.

Ministers say there are ample employment opportunities across the economy, but it will be a political pressure point in the days ahead.

So too the booster vaccination programme as impatience grows over a perceived slowness in getting people jabbed for a third time.

Yet on an evening when positivity is in short supply, the always sanguine Eamon Ryan proffered the upbeat view that this country was very good at managing Covid surges.

That opinion is likely to be rigorously tested in the weeks ahead.