The Minister for Health has said today is day one of flattening the curve for a second time but that everyone understands the cost of moving to Level 5.

Stephen Donnelly said this is a "pre-emptive strike" and while the hospital services are okay, if we do not move now these services will suffer.

The exit from Level 5 in December could be "region by region" depending on a range of factors, he said.

Speaking on RTÉ's Morning Ireland, the minister said while fatality levels are lower than in the first wave, they are rising and have doubled in the last two weeks.

Mr Donnelly added that there is a lag in these cases and they are expected to rise again.

He said protecting human safety and health, health services, education services and jobs are the Government's priorities.

Under Level 5 measures, which came into effect at midnight, people are asked to stay at home and to exercise within 5km from home.

Non-essential retail and personal services are to close, but schools and childcare remain open.

As a further 1,167 new cases of Covid-19 were confirmed yesterday, Chief Medical Officer Dr Tony Holohan said people's individual behaviour is the most effective defence against the transmission of the virus.

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At a glance: What does Level 5 mean?

The new cases were spread across all 26 counties, bringing the 14-day incidence rate for the country to 291. 

Cavan has the highest rate in the country at more than 1,000 cases per 100,000 of the population.

In the last seven days, more than 112,000 Covid-19 tests have been carried out, yielding a positivity rate of 7.1%.

Level 5 measures will be in place for six weeks and Dr Holohan said everyone needs to stay at home, other than for essential reasons, and to follow the public health advice.

In a tweet last night, the Taoiseach said: "As we think about the next six weeks of increased restrictions at Level 5, we just need to remember that we are doing this to protect our families and the most vulnerable in our communities.

"We will come through it and we will see each other again."

Gardaí have begun what they say is a major high visibility policing operation to support the new public health restrictions to curb the spread of Covid-19.

'No-one will be safe from this virus until every one of us is'

President Michael D Higgins has said Covid-19 has had a profound impact on people's lives and "many have lost loved ones, lost their livelihoods or have seen their lives altered in dramatic ways". 

Speaking in a video posted on Twitter, President Higgins said people have had to rely on the solidarity of others and have come to realise that no one will be safe from the virus "until every one of us is". 

He said the virus has also served as a "powerful reminder that crises do not affect in everyone the same way". 

The President said that "as is the way with so many crises, including climate change, the Covid-19 pandemic has disproportionately impacted on those most vulnerable and those most marginalised."