The Foreign Affairs Minister has rejected claims that the reopening of hospitality and allowing home visits in December was a mistake and caused the surge in Covid-19 cases.
Simon Coveney said it was a "misreading" of the situation to suggest there was a divide between the National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet) and the Government.
"The pace of the third wave of the spread of this virus has taken everybody by surprise," he told RTÉ Radio 1's Morning Ireland.
He said the relationship between Government and Nphet, and the decisions that have been made in the back of that relationship, by and large, have saved many many lives and have kept the spread of the virus under control where possible.
"Of course, there have been some mistakes made, but we are now in the teeth of a third wave and Nphet and Government are working together, but Government must make decisions," Mr Coveney said, adding Nphet's advice is taken "very seriously".
Mr Coveney warned it may be necessary to extend Level 5 restrictions past the end of January.
The Fine Gael minister described the challenge ahead of trying to tackle the latest wave as a "significant one".
"We have taken the decision in a way that's consistent with Nphet to move to a full Level 5 set of restrictions until the end of January and it may be necessary to go even beyond that," he said.