Tánaiste Simon Coveney has conceded that restrictions on people's movements to limit the spread of Covid-19 may go beyond the initial deadline of Easter.
He made the remarks as the government announced a 'community call', an initiative to support the vulnerable and elderly in towns, villages and in cities.
Mr Coveney at a press briefing also admitted that it remained unknown if there were enough hospital beds to cope with an expected surge in virus patients in the weeks ahead.
The comments come as the Cabinet sub-committee overseeing response to the killer virus meets this morning to review restrictions in place and the latest measures to curb the disease's spread.
Mr Coveney addressed queries on the lockdown in place across the country until Easter, where people cannot leave their homes unless it is for essential work, appointments or for provisions.
He said the restrictions “may go on for some time”.
It was “wrong” to put a timeline on them, he suggested, but it may well be that Ireland may need to “go beyond that initial deadline”.
He also admitted that there may not be sufficient bed spaces for virus patients in the weeks ahead.
The HSE was attempting to double capacity and more to some 10,000 beds in a number of weeks, Mr Coveney told reporters.
But a dramatic increase in patients needing beds and care was expected, it was added.
“We don't know yet if it [the capacity] is going to be enough,” he added.
Nonetheless, if the public complied with social distancing and handwashing guidelines among measures, lives could be “saved”, added Mr Coveney
Ministers announced a rallying call for local authorities, volunteers and neighbours to unite in supporting vulnerable communities.
The 'community call' will see 31 local-authority-run offices nationwide coordinate help and supports for the elderly and vulnerable most at risk from the virus.
Rural Affairs Minister Michael Ring said:
Elsewhere, officials have announced that efforts are underway to reduce job losses in the horseracing industry after the cancellation of events in that sector.
The Government is also trying to help over 1,000 Irish citizens return home from some 86 countries around the globe.