Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has said that Ireland will face some of its darkest days in the weeks ahead, as it battles to contain the spread of coronavirus.
In a video message posted on Twitter, Mr Varadkar said that the country is preparing to reach its Covid-19 peak later this month.
"The number of hospitalisations and sadly the number of deaths continues to rise," he said.
"So we cannot lose focus. We cannot lessen our efforts. In fact, we need to redouble them for the next few weeks.
"It's more important than ever that we persevere. It's possible that we haven't seen the peak yet.
"When it comes, perhaps later this month, we will experience some of our darkest days. So we need to maintain our discipline and resolve in the knowledge that better days are to come."
Wishing the public a Happy Easter, he added: "This is a special time of the year when we recall some of the major turning points etched into our national story - the Easter Rising, becoming a Republic, the Good Friday Agreement.
"For many of us Easter is a special moment in the Christian calendar, marking the resurrection, the Good News and what it means for the world.
"This Easter we reach another crucial point in our history - our fight against Covid-19. Thank you for heeding the advice of our experts, for interrupting the spread of the virus, sheltering the most vulnerable, protecting our health service and ensuring the staff who work in it have not been overwhelmed so far.
"Your action are making a difference. The spread of the virus is slowing.
"So today - whether we have faith or not - let us remember the Easter message, a message of suffering and sacrifice followed by rebirth and renewal, and above all a message of hope as winter turns to spring.
"When this emergency ends we will mourn the dead, comfort the bereaved, and be together again.
"We will re-awaken the sleeping giant that is our economy, our people will go back to work and our businesses will reopen, and taking what we've learned, we will build a better society at the end of this - a great society for a great people."
On Saturday, health officials confirmed 553 new cases of Covid-19 in Ireland, the biggest increase since the outbreak began.
The Department of Health also said a further 286 older cases of Covid-19 have been reported by a laboratory in Germany.
On Saturday, Minister for Health Simon Harris said he hoped the backlog in testing would be cleared by the end of next week.
He said between 25,000 and 30,000 tests had been sent to Germany, with more than half of the tests returned and the remainder due back this week.
There are 8,928 confirmed cases of Covid-19 in Ireland, and another 33 people have died, taking the total to 320.
Of the 33 deaths, 25 had an underlying health condition. Thirty were in the East and three in the West. There were 14 females and 19 males with a median age of 82.
Analysis from the Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC) shows that as of Thursday, when there were 7,787 cases, about 45 per cent were male and 54pc were female.
On Friday, the Irish Government extended its current restrictions for another three weeks, until May 5.
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Leo Varadkar should be on holidays now. He planned to go away next week with his partner, Dr Matthew Barrett, including a few days in Spain. But now, despite Fine Gael coming third in the election, he finds the ultimate responsibility for running the country, and forming the next government, rests with him.