The opening of non-essential retail is only possible because of “sacrifices” people have made, Dr Tony Holohan said last night.
But the Chief Medical Officer warned we all still need to be vigilant.
He was speaking as 269 new cases of the virus were announced, in addition to another 18 deaths. Of those, 15 occurred in November, one was in October, and two are under investigation.
The new cases were spread across the country, including 73 in Dublin, 20 in Kilkenny, 20 in Limerick, 19 in Tipperary and eight in Cork.
As of yesterday afternoon, some 224 Covid-19 patients were hospitalised, of which 31 are in ICU.
“Each one of us has a role in shaping the national picture on Covid-19 in the coming weeks,” Dr Holohan said.
“It is up to every person, individually, to remain vigilant to the spread of this disease, to assess the risk that is involved in any social activity.
“We need to keep the public health advice at the centre of our minds and do not have visitors to our homes, outside of any necessary visitors in a support bubble, until December 18.
“It is vital that you keep hand washing, wear face coverings and keep a two-metre distance from each other, to protect public health, to protect vital public services and to give us the best chance to continue to minimise the spread of the disease.”
Taoiseach Micheál Martin made similar remarks, urging people to shop local and safely this Christmas.
"Take a little time to investigate off-peak opening times, ensure you wear a mask on busy streets as well as inside shops and shopping centres. Think about what you need to buy in advance so that you do not spend too much time in the shops browsing. Plan to shop as early in the month as possible and please respect priority plans in stores for vulnerable people who may need a little extra help when shopping.
Meanwhile, an outbreak of Covid-19 has been reported at University Hospital, Waterford.
A spokesman for the hospital confirmed that "a number" of positive cases have been identified there.
The scale of the outbreak is not yet known.
In a statement, the hospital said an outbreak control team has been deployed and that appropriate limitation measures are now being set up.