Ireland remains on track to enter the second phase of its lockdown exit plan next week, the chief medical officer has said.
Dr Tony Holohan and his colleagues in the National Public Health Emergency Team will convene on Thursday to decide whether to recommend that Government proceeds with the next series of relaxations on Monday.
Phase two would see some workplaces and small retail outlets reopen; the distance restriction on exercise extended from 5km to 20km; and people allowed to visit the homes of those cocooning, as long as PPE and social distancing are used.
Up to four people would also be allowed visit other households while sports teams could resume non-contact training in small groups.
“Our planning assumption has been that we’ll get there,” Dr Holohan told the daily Covid-19 briefing.
“We don’t know for certain, but as yet in terms of the detailed data there’s nothing that’s suggesting to us at this point in time that we won’t be in a position to make that recommendation.
“But I think we need to allow the remaining days of the week to elapse.
“The week three in the three-week cycle is the important week, and we’re keeping a very close eye on the figures.”
Ireland’s coronavirus death toll rose to 1,659 on Wednesday after a further three fatalities were announced.
There were 47 new confirmed cases of Covid-19, bringing the total since the outbreak began to 25,111.
In other developments on Wednesday, Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe revealed that the national deficit was now running at 6.1 billion euros.
That compares to a 63 million euro deficit recorded at the same time last year.
The rise reflects the Government’s significant expenditure on health and income supports during the pandemic.
Total gross expenditure stood at 31.5 billion euros at the end of May, a rise of 5.5 billion euros (21%) on the same time last year.
“Overall, where we are at the moment is that the pandemic continues to have a very negative impact on the public finances,” he said.
Tax revenue in the first five months of the year was 21.7 billion euros. This was the same as last year, with an increase in corporation tax take balancing out the fall in other tax heads.
Mr Donohoe said the financial picture reflected the “extraordinary measures” the Government had taken to support companies and workers.
“It is absolutely the right economic policy for the Government to run a deficit when the private sector has experienced a demand shock of this scale,” he said.
Earlier, Defence Minister Paul Kehoe revealed that more than 10 million euros had been spent to help the Defence Forces during the outbreak.
Mr Kehoe said the expenditure included additional medical, engineering and transport costs spent throughout the coronavirus pandemic.
The Defence Forces has been helping across various areas including testing and contact tracing as well as collecting personal protective equipment.
Mr Kehoe also said there has been a delay in the recruitment of Defence Forces members because of the Covid-19 pandemic.
But he said there has been an increased interest in joining the Defence Forces, with applications above anticipated figures for this point in the year.
Also on Wednesday, Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney said more than 1,000 Irish citizens remain stranded overseas wanting to return home.
He said his department had helped more than 6,000 citizens to return to Ireland from 126 countries since the outbreak began.
Mr Coveney said many of those who remain stranded are in countries with tight restrictions on travel.