Tánaiste Leo Varadkar has said there is always the possibility of restrictions being reintroduced but the aim is to "get through winter without having to do that".

Speaking in Limerick at the formal opening of a new Edwards Lifesciences plant, the Minister for Enterprise added: "We want to get through this winter without imposing restrictions.

"That's why we're asking people to work with us, to get vaccinated, get a booster if they are over 60 and wear a mask as appropriate."

Mr Varadkar said it is becoming increasingly clear that "Covid is going to be with us forever, it's going to become an endemic virus that is seasonal in nature".

He said that with 90% of the population fully vaccinated, the Government and the National Public Health Emergency Team "do not feel it's appropriate to keep people locked down forever".

The Tánaiste added that, while he remained worried about the pandemic, "I do not want to create any worries in people's minds about Christmas, that would not be fair.

"I have always expressed the view we need to get through another winter before this is safely behind us. We cannot keep the country locked down forever. It's going to be difficult, but I think we can handle it."

Earlier, Taoiseach Micheál Martin, when asked if he could guarantee that there would not be a resumption of restrictions by Christmas, said that vaccination rates gave the country "significant protection".

However, he added, that as we move into winter, experts were analysing Covid-19 all the time. "The phase we're now in does speak to a collective effort from everybody to be cautious."

Meanwhile new data released by the Health Protection Surveillance Centre shows most breakthrough Covid-19 infections among fully vaccinated people occur in those with an underlying condition.

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Between 1 April and 16 October 2021, the vast majority (98%) of the 102 fully vaccinated individuals with coronavirus who needed treatment in ICU also had another medical condition.

That same time span also saw 402 Covid-related deaths. Over two thirds (67.2%) of the 174 fully vaccinated people who died had an underlying medical condition. Their average age was 81 years-old.

The HPSC reported that 44.3% of deaths occurred in people who were not vaccinated.

Further data on admissions to ICU showed that of the 438 people admitted with Covid-19 between 1 April and 16 October, 68% were not vaccinated while almost a third (32%) had one dose of a vaccine.

Of the 102 fully vaccinated Covid patients in ICU, 62 were male and 40 were female. Their average age was 65 and 98% also had an underlying medical condition.

The Taoiseach today again urged people to get vaccinated. "It will protect you and those around you from becoming severely ill, and from being admitted to hospital and to ICU," Micheál Martin said.

Leo Varadkar said the further easing of restrictions may have in impact on hospitals but "NPHET is telling us that these will peak in a couple of weeks' time and hopefully fall after that".