Ireland will have Covid-19 cases on a “constant” basis for at least another two years, according to a World Health Organisation (WHO) expert.
Dr David Nabarro, the WHO's special envoy on Covid-19, told Newstalk that Ireland will not eliminate the virus until 2024 at the earliest.
“The disease is accelerating faster than ever, particularly in the Indian subcontinent,” he said.
“We're not going to be able to start imagining that people in Ireland are safe as long as there's lots of virus in other parts of the world. Unless Ireland is going to insulate itself as a country for the next year or two, until the rest of the world has managed to get on top of the virus.”
He added: “Ireland, the UK and other western European countries are going to have a constant, quite low level of Covid infections for at least two years, until it's down everywhere. I think globally this disease is going to run for at least two years.”
Dr Nabarro's comments come as the number of people in public hospitals with the virus dropped to 172 on Tuesday night – the lowest in over six months.
That figure has halved in the past month, while 48 Covid patients were in intensive care last night – compared to 221 in late January.
The drop in infections has created growing optimism within Government over the potential to reopen society and businesses earlier than expected given the significant drop in hospital admissions and deaths linked to Covid-19.
The Cabinet agreed on Tuesday to proceed as planned with the further gradual easing of a number of restrictions from Monday, according to The Irish Times.
This includes the reopening of facilities for outdoor sports, including golf and tennis, and outdoor visitor attractions including zoos and heritage sites.
The maximum attendance at funerals will increase to 25 but the ban on other gatherings remains.