No consideration will be given to opening hospitality until mid-summer, Taoiseach Micheál Martin has said.
Speaking on RTÉ's Raidió na Gaeltachta, Mr Martin said that the coronavirus numbers are far too high and that the Government and public health officials are particularly concerned about the emergence of new variants.
"While I am happy that we are making progress with the vaccination programme," Mr Martin said. "Any easing of the restrictions has to be slow and cautious because of the threat from new variants of the disease."
"These variants are our biggest concern for managing the disease in the immediate future," he added.
Asked about the reopening of hospitality, Mr Martin said he did not foresee that happening before the middle of the summer
"What the public health authorities are saying is that we stick with this until end of April, then we reflect on the situation and make decisions about the months ahead," he said.
Responding to the Taoiseach's comments, Restaurants Association of Ireland CEO Adrian Cummins said in a statement that restaurants and hospitality businesses will now be "closer to financial ruin and meltdown".
"The Government now needs to increase the level of business supports for all hospitality businesses in order for the survival of the sector and remain ready to reemploy hundreds of thousands of tourism and hospitality workers currently on the PUP payment," the statement continued.
"The Government now needs to set out clearly what level/percentage of the population that will be required to be vaccinated in order to fully reopen all hospitality businesses.
"Finally, the Government needs to clarify if mid-summer for reopening is the start of June or the start of July as businesses will need to plan for reopening with public health allows."
The chairman of the Limerick branch of the Vintners Federation of Ireland, Paul Flannery, said it was so disappointing to hear the Taoiseach's remarks today.
Mr Flannery, who runs a family pub in Limerick city centre, said it was so demoralising for staff to hear. It was a stark reminder to the 100,000 staff in the industry that they still have such a long way to go before they get back to work, he said.
"It's really hard to hear the Taoiseach's soundbites about the long way to reopening, and at the same time, not backing it up with a clear plan about what will happen then," he said.
Yesterday the Taoiseach said that "nothing is set in stone" following reports that the country is facing nine more weeks of severe restrictions.
Speaking to reporters in Dublin, Mr Martin said the Government will meet NPHET again on Monday and the emphasis right now is on schools, in particular the early years classes.
The Taoiseach said they are pursuing a very prolonged suppression of the virus and that NPHET wants to monitor each step of reopening.
He said there will be no large-scale reopening of construction and that reopening depends on the progression of the disease.
Mr Martin said the vaccination programme will impact decisions.
Separately, Mr Martin has said he will consider concerns raised by a number of Catholic Archbishops at a meeting about the impact of Covid-19 restrictions on public worship and the upcoming Easter celebrations.