A new visiting regime for nursing homes will allow for "critical and compassionate circumstances", even as Nphet expressed concern over the "persistently high incidence" of Covid-19 among older people.
Under new guidance, residents may be facilitated to receive up to one visit by one person per week under levels 3 and 4 of the framework, and up to one visit by one person every two weeks under level 5.
The new guidance comes into effect from December 7.
Mary Butler, the minister for mental health and older people, said: “While, unfortunately, the risk posed by Covid-19 means that we will all have to celebrate Christmas in a different way this year, the new visiting guidance identifies further opportunity for managed social interaction and residents receiving visits from family.”
It comes as Nphet said its estimate regarding the R number — the rate of reproduction of the virus, referring to the number of people infected by each positive case — was now between 0.7 and 1, with an update on that to be provided on Thursday, the same day it will provide a formal update on its modelling regarding how case numbers may move across the festive period.
Chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan and his colleagues said they were still concerned about persistent and delayed case numbers among healthcare workers and in residential settings.
With many businesses including retail gearing up for a possible consumer rush ahead of Christmas, public transport will also move from 25% to 50% capacity from this morning as the country goes to level 3.
The National Transport Authority (NTA) said: "With the resumption of retail, some hospitality, and other activities, and given the fact that schools are still in term, we anticipate that demand for public transport will increase this week.
"Social distancing measures are restricting capacity, so customers are advised to only use public transport for necessary journeys and to avoid peak-time travel.
"If particular pressure points emerge in the coming days, NTA and the transport operators will seek to respond, and address them at local level if there is scope to do so."
The NTA asked people to avoid travelling at times of the day when a lot of school children and essential workers are using public transport, and only to use public transport for essential purposes.
The move to level 3 will also be reflected in a change in policing.
Garda Commissioner Drew Harris said: "Throughout the pandemic, there has been very good compliance by the public with the health advice and regulations. It is critical that this continues in level 3.
"While people are able to undertake more activities and travel wider from December 1, we all need to remember that Covid-19 is still with us, and we should act accordingly.
"We all must continue to play our part by heeding the public health advice. This is the best way of protecting ourselves, our loved ones, and our neighbours.”
Deputy Commissioner, Policing and Security, John Twomey said: "Between now and December 18, An Garda Síochána’s focus is on keeping people safe through a wide range of operational activities.
In doing so, based on our tradition of policing by consent, An Garda Síochána will maintain its 4Es [engage, explain and encourage, with enforcement as a last resort] approach with the main emphasis being on engaging with people to encourage compliance."