There is a hope in Government that schools will return after the Christmas holidays but as ever, Covid-19 does not neatly lend itself to providing certainty.

Although the Cabinet has not met this week, there have been ongoing informal discussions within the Coalition and among public health experts.

The view in the Government seems to be that while the Covid case numbers are very high, it's not an unexpected development.

There is a feeling too that people have largely observed the guidance around reducing social contact.

Furthermore, antigen tests are viewed as detecting many asymptotic cases which would previously have been undiscovered.

Once again, the key measure is the number of people in hospital infected with the virus.

The latest figures on that front have dented the optimism of some Ministers but most see potential signs of hope in the relatively stable ICU numbers.

There is a feeling that Friday evening, when many patient discharges may be completed, will provide the most accurate reading of the challenge facing hospitals in the period ahead.

There is a widespread view in the Government that the situation is a more positive one compared to this time last year because of vaccinations.

However, it is acknowledged that the number of people who will have to self-isolate or restrict their movements in the coming days and weeks will be enormous.

But it is felt that any move to shorten the period of isolation would have to be based on solid medical advice.

Otherwise, it could be counter-productive and actually increase transmission of the virus.

The task facing the Government and health experts in the days ahead is to try to make an assessment of when this surge in Covid cases might peak.

There is an optimistic hope that it would happen within the next ten days or so.

As things stand the Cabinet is likely to meet next Wednesday and a National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET) gathering is due to take place the following day.

That's the current plan unless the case figures or hospital admissions trigger an alarm bell that would see NPHET holding an emergency meeting before next Thursday.

Were that to happen, then further restrictions could well follow.