TAOISEACH Leo Varadkar has said that ensuring people over 70 "see many more birthdays in the years ahead" is worth continued sacrifice in terms of restrictions in the coming weeks.
Restrictions on non-essential movement outside the home as well as 'cocooning' for older people were imposed until next Sunday, April 12 due to the coronavirus crisis.
But the Taoiseach's remarks are a further indication that they will be in place beyond that date.
Mr Varadkar also said that childcare supports for healthcare and other frontline workers is almost ready to go and that the prospect of travel restrictions into Ireland is "still being worked on".
He said the government will act on the advice of the National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET) in terms of whether or not restrictions will continue or be modified and he wouldn't speculate on how long they will last for.
Mr Varadkar said his own parents are among the over-70s that are continuing to cocoon and he knows it's "frustrating to be stuck indoors" and not be able to hug grandchildren or go to the shops for themselves.
"But it is working and it is saving lives and we are starting to see the number of new infections and new cases level off," he said.
"Ultimately this is about making sure that those people in their 70s and 80s and 90s - our parents and grandparents - get to see many more birthdays in the years ahead.
"And I think it's worth that sacrifice for the next few weeks."
On childcare for frontline workers, Mr Varadkar said it was taking much longer than the government would like to put it in place and he understands people's frustration.
He said public health is the over-riding concern.
"While we're ready to push the button in terms of providing child care to essential workers we need clearance from the public health team that it in itself mightn’t become a public health risk or mightn’t cause the virus to be spread."
Mr Varadkar added: "It's certainly not an issue of money - that's there. It's not an issue of staff available - they've said they'll do it.
"It is now an issue of public health clearance and we haven't quite got that yet."
Separately Mr Varadkar said inbound travel to Ireland has dropped 95pc on last month. He said the question is how to minimise the risk from the remaining 5pc of travel that is happening - mostly Irish citizens returning home.
He said such people must observe a 14-day quarantine so that they and their contacts can be traced.
Asked how it can be ensured that people comply with this he said "by checking on people".
He said the vast majority of Irish people have been abiding by the regulations that have been put in place whether it's self-isolating for 14 days or obeying the rules around social distancing.
Mr Varadkar added: "I'm sort of glad as a country that we've been able to do that by consent.
"We have regulations on the table ready to sign if we need to bring in the kind of enforcement powers that exist in other countries, but I don't want to be in a position whereby we're criminalising people for going two kilometres away from their home without an adequate excuse."
"The last thing I want is people to come after this emergency with fines and prison sentences and criminal convictions," he said, which has happened elsewhere.
He said: "So while we can bring in tougher laws and they are ready to be signed if we need to, I don't want do that just yet, and certainly not unless the Garda Commissioner really feels it's absolutely necessary".
The coronavirus death toll in Ireland has risen to 174, with 16 deaths reported in the last 24 hours, the National Public Health emergency team has said.
This includes six women and 10 men - 11 deaths are located in the east, four in the north west, one in the west of the country.
Four patients were reported as having underlying health conditions
The median age of today’s reported deaths is 78 and the median age of the deaths so far in Ireland is 81.
There have also been 370 new cases confirmed in Ireland.
Research conducted on behalf of the Department of Health, a nationally representative online survey of 1,270 adults conducted today, and which will be conducted twice weekly, revealed:
· The percentage of people stockpiling has reduced from a peak of 43pc in mid-March to 20pc today
· 86pc of people believe that current government restrictions are “about right”
· 67pc are interacting with family and friends over the phone
· Median age of confirmed cases is 49 years
· 1,265 cases (26pc) have been hospitalised
· Of those hospitalised, 169 cases have been admitted to ICU
· 1,263 cases (26pc) are associated with healthcare workers
· Dublin has the highest number of cases at 2,692 (55pc of all cases) followed by Cork with 362 cases (7pc)
· Of those for whom transmission status is known: community transmission accounts for 65pc, close contact accounts for 23pc, travel abroad accounts for 12pc
Visit our Covid-19 vaccine dashboard for updates on the roll out of the vaccination program and the rate of Coronavirus cases Ireland