Asymptomatic residents in nursing homes will now be tested for the coronavirus.
Health minister Simon Harris said that “a lot more” needs to be done regarding the spreading of the virus in residential care settings.
“There is clearly a need to do an awful lot more," he told RTÉ’s Morning Ireland.
“Today we’re going to see a number of more measures taken, particularly an increase in extra testing in our residential settings."
He said that leading doctors have said that common COVID-19 symptoms like a fever or cough are not present in all residential care settings.
“We need to start testing now asymptomatic people, people without symptoms and the HSE will start today using the National Ambulance Service to carry out more tests.
“There’s absolutely no doubt that we need to do more in our residential care settings,” he added.
“The frontline battle against this deadly disgusting virus is in our residential settings.”
With current strict lockdown measures in place until May 5, the health minister added that he “really” hopes to see “some easing” of restrictions.
“I really do, I really would like for the people of Ireland to see that as a dividend for their work.
“We all have to beat COVID-19 but we also have to protect our mental health and our physical health.
“But I don’t want to create a false expectation and I don’t want to engage in any bull - in the first week of May, you’re not going to see a significant lifting of restrictions. What I hope, really hope, is that we continue to make the progress,” he explained.
“We’ve another two weeks to go.”
Mr Harris said that in these two weeks, the reproduction rate of virus needs to be reduced, progress needs to be made in residential settings and ICU numbers stabilise.
“I really hope beyond hope that at that stage, we will be able to ease some restrictions. But I do have to be honest, it’s going to be gradual, slow, and we have to monitor it really, really carefully.”
He added that an easing of restrictions will not see “us going back to our normal lives” and will involve social distancing.
He said that all decisions taken in regards to the restrictions will be “grounded in public health”.