Dr Tony Holohan has given his clearest indication yet that he might favour bringing forward Covid-19 restrictions dates.
The chief medical officer was asked if he would consider bringing forward, for example, the full reopening of the economy by August 10.
The question was asked against the background of a growing call for restrictions to be lifted sooner.
Employers’ group Ibec has slammed the lockdown measures as being among the most “conservative” in Europe and potentially detrimental to the economy.
Speaking at last night’s Covid-19 briefing, he said: “I am aware of those calls from various different sectors, and we understand them.
“Our assessment of all of these things is based on public health considerations.
“I would like to think, on an ongoing basis, we are open to the possibility that — where evidence and experience in other countries suggest we should make changes — that we would make those changes.
“We have given consideration to all of that and have made that advice available to the Government, and the Government is going to consider that and make clear what its response will be.”
However, he urged people not to listen to any encouragement by airlines for people to start booking flights for holidays abroad.
“We are advising the public to listen to our public health advice relation to non-essential travel,” he said.
“And that remains, at this moment in time, unchanged.
We are advising people who are contemplating coming here for non-essential reasons that now is not the time to do that.
When asked if he was asking people to hold off from booking their holidays, he replied: “Yes”.
He said a total of five people with Covid-19 have died in the past 24 hours, and there have been 38 confirmed new cases of the disease.
It brings the total number of confirmed cases of Covid-19 in Ireland to 25,142.
Given the declining numbers of deaths and new cases, Dr Holohan was asked if he felt under pressure to speed up the country’s return to normal.
“No, I don’t think we are under pressure in relation to that,” he said. “It’s a public health assessment on a continuing basis.
“There are other considerations that have to be given to any set of measures other than just public health ones by the Government. Our role and our responsibility is to make the public health assessment available.”
His colleague Prof Philp Nolan said the measures taken so far have worked in slowing the spread of the virus.
He said the “good news” is that it is now too hard to estimate how the virus is spreading, because the so-called R rate is less than 1.
“With so low prevalence of the disease, we have been monitoring the reproductive number of this and when the number of cases gets very low, it’s very difficult to estimate how the disease is spreading in the population,” he said.
“So it is good news that it is hard to estimate. We still are confident that it is significantly below 1.
“The measures people have taken to ensure when they are coming into contact with people that they are not transmitting the virus remain effective.
“It’s possible that the R number is a little bit higher this week than it was last week
“If that is the case, it is marginal.”