The timing could not be more disappointing for the nation.
Just two weeks before the promised first tentative reopenings – and after three months of lockdown – cases of Covid-19 rise and a surge could be looming. The daily count on Sunday was 769 cases, the highest in three weeks. It leaves some uncomfortable and unpopular decisions to be considered this week among public health experts.
The five-day moving average of new cases was put at 587 yesterday. The 14-day incidence rate per 100,000 population was 155.3. Both of these represent an increase.
Ireland is doing well compared to many other European countries, but it is all relative. There is little room for comfort. The infection rate in Europe is now at its highest since the beginning of February. Several countries are having to bring in new lockdowns.
In Italy, for instance, people are not allowed out except for essential shopping. Germany is fighting a third wave. Should we draw lessons from their grim predicament and hold off on any significant easing of restrictions?
It is still unclear what is behind the weekend spike in cases. It could be due to a number of large outbreaks which have fuelled the rise, or it may even be evidence of a wider spread.
We hear of an outbreak involving 12 children and eight staff today in a Tullamore creche. Offaly, Longford and Kildare have the highest incidence. The highest number of cases reported yesterday included 284 in Dublin, 67 in Donegal, 47 in Offaly and 45 in Meath. There were 282 cases spread across 20 other counties.
The weakness in reopening is the high base level of daily cases. Back in December, they were around 484 when it was reported restrictions would have to be reimposed. They went on to spiral to over 6,000 a day. It showed how the infection can quickly get out of control.
It is known that the UK variant, which is more infectious, is fuelling spread. The country has been largely in lockdown since it has taken hold, apart from exceptional measures like the phased return to school.
We have yet to live with this variant in more normal times, involving greater movement of people and the reopening of some sectors such as construction.
The proposals down for consideration from April 5 include extending the 5km limit, allowing some construction activity to resume and permitting some outdoor sports. Infectious disease consultant, Prof Jack Lambert of the UCD School of Medicine, said it will be necessary to "safely" relax restrictions.
"There is a need for enhanced mitigation strategies. If you have construction sites where people have no training, are having coffee with no masks and congregating in large groups, that is wrong,” he said.
"We need to ensure we are doing all the right things in Covid-19 prevention. What training are they given? What supervision? What inspections are they doing? That is a necessary part of the solution."
It is accepted that public health teams who are responsible for tracking the spread of the virus and investigating outbreaks cannot do enough backward checks because their ranks are still too low.
This is an Achilles heel yet again and allows incidences where the virus escapes into the community. For a nation that has endured lockdown for three months, this undermines morale.
There is little doubt that people feel drained after being in lockdown for so long. But there is always the bigger picture.
Nobody wants to go back to another nightmare that might resemble January, when the virus ripped through the country, costing so many lives and filling our hospitals.
Extending restrictions is tough medicine, but we also have to acknowledge the lessons of the last year. The minute this virus sees a weakness, it will exploit it.
People may feel they are asked to do another sprint in the middle of the marathon that is lockdown. But there is a destination in sight.
As more of the vaccine is rolled out, particularly to at-risk groups, the nearer we are to the end of the tunnel. The prospect of a good summer is being held out as 80pc of the population get a first dose by the end of June. We all want to live to see it.
April, May and June are held out as the months for the vaccine roll-out to ramp up.
The start of mandatory hotel quarantining for travellers from at-risk countries will play a role in helping to keep the country safer. It should reduce the risk of people with the virus – including a more infectious strain – passing it on as they isolate for 14 days.
A number of cases of the Brazilian variant have already got into the community. The South African variant is also being blamed for rising cases in several European countries. It is accounting for 5-10pc of cases in some countries and is spreading in France.