The head of the HSE has reminded the Government of the "dark days" of January amid growing concern the Delta variant of Covid-19 will sweep across the country if society opens too quickly.
HSE chief executive Paul Reid described the rise of the Delta variant as a worrying trend – a fifth of new Covid-19 cases in Ireland are the Delta variant, which was first identified in India.
The variant is between 40% and 60% more transmissible than the original virus and associated with a higher risk of hospitalisation.
"The vaccines are definitely winning against the virus, but by any stretch, it's far too early to be declaring victory, or indeed taking a lap of honour at this stage," Mr Reid said.
But he said the HSE was administrating about 300,000 doses of Covid-19 vaccines every week and was now on a firm trajectory to end what has been a "bleak" period.
He also told the briefing that the HSE would be outlining the latest data to the Government to assist its decision-making process when it comes to the easing of restrictions.
The Cabinet is to decide next Thursday whether it will give the green light for the further easing of Covid-19 restrictions next month.
Indoor hospitality is due to resume on July 5.
"We don't envy them," Mr Reid said. "It's not an easy job, as they have to balance a range of considerations and inputs they will get.
"We all do want to keep everyone safe and well. And at the same time, we all want a normal life restored as quickly as we possibly can."
But Mr Reid warned the "dark days" of what happened to the health service in January and February cannot happen again.
Dr Colm Henry told a HSE briefing that the 14-day incidence is 92 per 100,000, now the lowest it has been since August/September last year.
The HSE's chief clinical officer said there were no outbreaks of the virus across nursing homes, community hospitals, and acute hospitals in the past week.
He described the uptake of vaccines to date in Ireland as "very high" and to the "envy" of many other countries.
Almost two-thirds (62%) of the eligible adult population have received one dose of a vaccine and almost 37% are fully protected.
Discussing the Delta variant, Dr Henry said a total of 210 cases have been identified in Ireland to date.
"It's going to go up for sure," he said.
"There's no way it's going to stay at this figure. There's no reason why we would be any different from other countries in seeing this take off."
Some 27% of the Delta cases are travel-related, while half of them are a close contact of a case.
Earlier, Transport Minister Eamon Ryan said international travel would resume on July 19 as planned despite concerns over the Delta variant.
He said he believed Nphet's advice next week would focus on the planned easing on July 5 of indoor dining.