Ireland could record up to 170 new coronavirus cases per day within weeks if worst-case scenarios transpire, experts advising the Irish Government said.
The Republic has paused plans to relax social movement restrictions and pubs which do not serve food will remain closed until at least August 10 amid fears of increased spread.
The rate at which the infection reproduces has risen above one.
We are in an uncertain situationProfessor Philip Nolan
Professor Philip Nolan, who models the virus’ progress for the Government, said: “In the next couple of weeks we are in quite a precarious situation in terms of where this disease will travel.”
For every person infected at present they go on to infect more than one other, causing a snowball effect in the numbers.
One further death and 21 additional cases were announced by the National Public Health Emergency Team on Thursday.
Prof Nolan said the virus’ reproductive rate was somewhere between 1.2 and 1.8.
By August 10 the number of new infections could be 20 or 30 a day if the rate is the lower value, he said.
If it is 1.8 the daily tally could be 150-170 a day, Prof Nolan added.
He said: “We are in an uncertain situation.”
That scenario is much lower than March when the reproductive rate was four or higher and the infection threatened to overwhelm the health service.
Acting chief medical officer Dr Ronan Glynn warned: “If they continue we will end up back where we were.
“We have come very, very far, we have got back to some relative level of normality.”
He said the impact of actions like keeping pubs closed would be felt in future weeks.
“The cases which we will report next week have already been seeded, however we have the power to limit the spread and impact of this disease beyond that.
“The way we do so is through following public health advice, avoiding high risk situations and encouraging our friends and family to do the same.”
Taoiseach Micheal Martin said the situation could have been much more serious had his Government not acted quickly.
He said: “The figures will be reviewed, nothing can be taken as gospel in terms of Covid.
“Covid is a moving dynamic.
“The pause we have brought in will help.
“The modelling if we did not was suggesting something more serious for us in six or five weeks.
“Our priority will be to get the schools open and to get the health care facilities open.”
He acknowledged it was difficult for publicans but said ministers were acting on public health advice.
Their representative body said the delay was a “hammer blow”.
Larger weddings have also had to be put on hold following the Government’s decision this week.
Mr Martin said in Northern Ireland and the Republic both administrations had pushed the infection rate down and that would continue.
He praised the role of the Stormont devolved administration and said his meeting in Belfast on Thursday with first and deputy first ministers Arlene Foster and Michelle O’Neill had been warm.
“They do understand the fact that we are the one island, the fact that Covid does not respect borders and respect that dynamic.”