The campaign to reduce the anti-Covid physical distancing rule from two metres to one metre was delivered a new setback with a major study showing the wider gap lessens the risk of infection.
Physical distancing of at least one metre lowers risk of Covid-19 transmission - but distances of two metres are more effective, the study in 'The Lancet' medical journal reveals.
It comes as the death toll fell to just one in the Republic yesterday - the second lowest daily fatality total since late March. However, another 77 new cases were diagnosed, signalling that, although it is circulating at a low level, it continues to pose a risk.
There was also mounting concern at breaching of safeguards over the weekend, with student house parties in Cork, which infectious disease experts fear can be a breeding ground for the virus.
It led to residents living near University College Cork staging a silent protest at the house parties by students who have rented houses nearby.
As the country basked in glorious sunshine over the bank holiday weekend, gardaí also had to ask groups of sun-seekers at the Forty Foot swimming spot in Sandycove, Co Dublin, to disperse .
Fears about a lack of physical distancing also led to beaches being closed to the public in Donegal, Kerry, Cork and Louth.
Dr Sam McConkey, infectious disease consultant in Beaumont Hospital, warned that house parties, where people were packed together at close quarters, speaking loudly, increased the risks of the virus being passed on.
'The Lancet' report, which was part-funded by the World Health Organisation (WHO), is the first to look at 172 observational studies on how physical distancing, face masks, and eye protection affect the spread of Covid-19 across 16 countries. It found that analysis of data from nine studies looked at physical distance and virus transmission.
They showed keeping a distance of over one metre from other people was associated with a much lower risk of infection compared with less than one metre.
The risk of infection when individuals stand more than a metre away from the infected individual was 3pc versus 13pc if within a metre. However, the modelling suggests for every extra metre further away, up to three metres, the risk of infection or transmission may halve.
Professor Holger Schünemann, from McMaster University in Canada, who co-led the research, said: "Our findings are the first to synthesise all direct information on Covid-19, Sars, and Mers, and provide the currently best available evidence on the optimum use of these common and simple interventions to help 'flatten the curve' and inform pandemic response efforts in the community."
Keeping at least one metre from other people as well as wearing face coverings and eye protection, in and outside of healthcare settings, could be the best way to reduce the chance of viral infection or transmission of Covid-19.
Chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan said: "We now have had more than 25,000 cases of Covid-19 in Ireland and while 90pc of patients have recovered, more than 3,285 people have been hospitalised and sadly 1,650 have died. It is vital that we continue to practise hand and cough hygiene and social distancing, with the additional hygiene measure of face coverings in appropriate settings.
"It is important to give space to our vulnerable people when out and about. We must continue to do all we can to interrupt the spread of this virus."