Tánaiste Leo Varadkar has said that Covid-19 case numbers are starting to plateau, but added that he would like to see them fall in the run up to Christmas.

Speaking on RTÉ's Today with Claire Byrne programme, Mr Varadkar said it would be a "big mistake" to impose a whole set of new restrictions in the coming days to find out that the country has "turned a corner anyway".

He said more restrictions may be needed coming into the Christmas period, but the Government would try to avoid a full lockdown.

Mr Varadkar also said he would not speculate about possible restrictions at this stage.

"I think we may need more restrictions heading into the Christmas period but I don't think we need to be fatalistic about a return to any form of lockdown or even a 'lockdown light', and I think we should try to avoid that," he said.

He warned that the pandemic is not under control and high levels of the virus are circulating in the community and described the situation in ICUs as "very tight and very worrying".

"We would like to see case numbers fall," he said. "We would like to go into Christmas in a better place than we are now with the number of people in hospital and cases falling."

Mr Varadkar said that in the last couple of weeks he has detected a certain degree of fatigue and hopelessness but he said people should have hope and "keep the faith".

He added that the changes people have made in the past couple of weeks are making a difference, and said the third dose of the vaccine is making a difference and nursing homes are in a much better place.

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The Tánaiste said he believed that the outcome from the NPHET meeting today would be further advice in relation to children.

He said asking children to wear masks would be difficult, but, he said, even if they were wearing masks "some of the time" that would be additional protection.

He again urged people who are not vaccinated to get a vaccine.

Mr Varadkar said he had "profound concern" for people who got the single-shot Janssen vaccine and said he hopes to have a positive decision on giving these people an mRNA dose soon.

He said he is in favour of antigen tests and uses them himself when going to see friends or family, but added that there are concerns around self-testing and whether it is being done appropriately.

He said he would like to see the tests cost around €2 or €3, and that the delay in subsidising the tests is to ensure they are actually cheaper for people.

Meanwhile, demand for a PCR test remains high again, with no self-referral appointments available across more than half the country.

As of 11am, there were no free slots through the HSE's online portal for swabbing centres in 15 counties.

The areas impacted include Dublin, Cork, Waterford, Meath, Kerry and Kildare.