Taoiseach Micheál Martin has warned business owners to strictly adhere to Covid-19 control guidelines and allow the vaccination programme time to be fully ramped-up.
Mr Martin, speaking during a visit to a Cork vaccination centre at Munster Technology University (MTU), insisted "a cautious and conservative approach" would be implemented in reopening from the Level 5 lockdown.
"That is how it is going to go - it is going to be very cautious and conservative as we roll out the vaccination programme," he said. "It makes sense in March that we drive down the numbers. The good news is the hospital numbers are coming down. Intensive care units are a bit slower and hospitals are still a bit under pressure.
"So we do not want hospitals going back to where they were in January. Likewise, what we reopen now we want to keep open. We do not want to be going back and closing sectors again if we can avoid it.
"Hopefully, this will put us on a steady track. I would say it is very important to stick to the guidelines. I know it is very difficult for people, it really is.
"It is a very long lockdown, but as we roll out the vaccination programme we give greater protection to the most vulnerable and our most senior citizens, which prevents them from getting sick and prevents mortality."
The Department of Health yesterday confirmed 13 more deaths linked to Covid-19.
Figures from the Health Protection Surveillance Centre reported 738 more confirmed cases. In Northern Ireland yesterday - one year after the first confirmed case - there were two more deaths and 184 new cases.
Mr Martin pleaded with business owners to stick to the course charted by the Government and public health experts and not attempt to reopen before restrictions are lifted.
"I would say to people to 'hold' - we need to vaccinate the elderly, we need to vaccinate those who are most vulnerable to the disease and it makes sense to do that," he said.
"This UK variant spreads more easily. We do not want to go back to where we were in January. There were almost 1,500 people in hos- pitals when our intensive care departments were at their limits," he said.