The Taoiseach has announced that the whole country will move to Level 3 and there will be measures to increase compliance of the restrictions.

Micheál Martin was speaking at Government Buildings tonight after Cabinet rejected a recommendation from the National Public Health Emergency Team to move to Level 5.

The Taoiseach said central to discussions about moving to Level 5 was looking at the wider implications.

He said we are in a different situation to last March and businesses are beginning to recover and vital public health services are still backlogged.

He said more severe restrictions now would have an impact that many might not recover from.

The Taoiseach said that the core of the Government's approach is a series of graduated levels "which allow us to respond to new trends of virus and ensure we look at all aspects of measures before they're implemented".

He said the Government has been informed by the NPHET that trends in most parts of the country are of major concern.

"We must respond and the challenge is to be as effective as possible," he continued.

During his address, the Taoiseach said: "We must step up efforts to ensure compliance with guidelines. We have decided not to move to a more comprehensive outcome."

The restrictions will be reviewed by ministers in three weeks' time.

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He said the potential implications of such a move are very severe and could involve the loss of hundreds of thousands of jobs.

He said it is essential that steps be taken to bring down the rate of infection and bring down the numbers of those who need hospitals.

He said: "The virus is spreading because people are allowing it to spread."

He said the Government will increase the level of public guidance to ensure measures are fully implemented to get maximum impact.

The Taoiseach said: "If we act now we can stop the need to go further to level 4 and 5. What happens next rests in our own hands."

The Taoiseach is expected to speak to Northern Ireland's First and Deputy First Ministers tonight, amid calls for an all-island approach to combatting the recent surge in cases. 

Govt must balance public health advice with economic considerations, says Donnelly

The Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly has said the Government must balance public health advice with all other social and economic considerations.

Speaking at a press briefing tonight, he said it was important to meet NPHET to go through its advice before making a decision.

Mr Donnelly said additional funding is being given to An Garda Síochána to set up enforcement of the restrictions and for a more visible presence.

He was asked what happened between Thursday's letter from NPHET not recommending moving the whole country to Level 3 to Sunday's letter saying all counties should move to Level 5.

Mr Donnelly replied saying one of the reasons the Government did not want to move to Level 5 was because it did not believe the data had sufficiently changed in those three days given the severity of the recommendation. 

The Minister for Transport Eamon Ryan said the three Government party leaders met for two hours this morning followed by another meeting with Cabinet to consider NPHET's recommendation to move to Level 5.

He said the Government respects the scientific advice but it has to take a range of considerations into account.

Minister Ryan said the Government wants to see if Level 3 restrictions can have a chance.

The Minister for Finance said the impact of a move to Level 5 like that would have been immediate for the many, many ten of thousands of jobs that are in our domestic economy.

Paschal Donohoe said so much now depends on the public health guidelines issued this evening to contain and reduce the spread of Covid-19.