The Tánaiste has hit out at the HSE, claiming it was "very unfair" to "dump" the Covid tracing problem on GPs.
It is understood that Leo Varadkar has told party colleagues that hiring people to contract trace is one of the least expensive measures but one of the most effective, and said the HSE was never told that funding would be limited in this area.
Mr Varadkar told a meeting of the Fine Gael parliamentary party that the Government had been reassured that the HSE would rehire people in the case of a second wave but that had clearly not happened.
The Tániste told party members that the testing system is "pretty good" with up to 120,000 tests now taking place each week but said contact tracing "isn't going so well".
It is understood Mr Varadkar outlined the Government's decision to move to level 5 restrictions, claiming the risk of getting it wrong would have caused hundreds if not thousands of premature deaths this winter.
Mr Varadkar told colleagues that the 5km rule is "not absolute" and it does apply to dropping children to school, going to buy groceries or essential workers who still need to go to work.
Former Rural Affairs Minister Michael Ring said he will not vote in favour of fines for people in rural Ireland who breach the 5km travel restriction.
Speaking at a Fine Gael parliamentary party, Mr Ring said the Government should have stuck with level 3 restrictions instead of imposing a national lockdown.
The Mayo TD said the rules set out in level 3 should have been enforced rather than stricter regulations being introduced.
Meanwhile senator Tim Lombard told the meeting that GPs were becoming very vocal. He said it was very important to keep doctors "in the camp" as at the moment they seem to be "outside the camp".
He said the testing and tracing issue had "dogged" the Government in recent weeks.
Alan Farrell raised concerns around the lack of engagement around level 5 restrictions.