Halloween celebrations have been blamed for the stall in progress being made in reducing Covid-19 cases in Ireland, an infectious disease expert has said.
Professor Sam McConkey said the increased rate of infection levels in the past week appeared to be linked to people partying over the Halloween period.
He also said that there were 100 outbreaks a day at present and that unless Ireland returned to very low levels it was hard to see indoor dining and wet pubs reopening.
There's some suggestion over Halloween there was essentially more socialising and partying than we had beforeProfessor Sam McConkey
Members of the National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet) were meeting on Thursday to discuss the country’s exit from Level 5 restrictions.
The six-week lockdown is due to end on December 1.
Ireland’s Covid-19 death toll passed the 2,000 mark on Wednesday.
“There’s some suggestion over Halloween there was essentially more socialising and partying than we had before,” Prof McConkey told RTE’s Morning Ireland programme.
“The optimist in me hopes that things will improve next week and the week after because we’re now back to normal life.
“The numbers may go down to half, maybe 100 to 200 cases a day by the beginning of December.
“The challenge will be keeping it there, keeping it down. That’s a really important challenge. None of us wants that oscillating up and down.”
He said moving to Level 3 restrictions from December where indoor dining and pubs are not open may keep cases “somewhat level”.
“It seems to me if we go down to Level 2 that that hasn’t controlled things in the past,” he said.
“If we do the same Level 3 as we’ve done in the past it’s a temporary way of keeping things level.”
He added that the spread of Covid-19 would be easier to tackle if numbers were lower when the country moved from Level 5 restrictions, as it would allow contact tracers to “thoroughly” and “meticulously” investigate each case.
Prof McConkey said the aviation sector was “in deep trouble regardless of what happens” in the next couple of weeks because of the spread of Covid-19 across the world.
He said it would be “possible to open retail in a safe way” but that hospitality represented a “real challenge”.
Chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan said on Wednesday that the pandemic had impacted families and communities all across Ireland both directly and indirectly.
Dr Holohan added that it was important that people continued to work together to supress the virus and that for the next two weeks people should work from home, stay at home and follow public health advice.