There is a growing public divide over how to address the health and economic impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic as the Government prepares to announce an extension of the nationwide lockdown.
The debate came into sharp focus at a Cabinet meeting yesterday where Taoiseach Leo Varadkar was warned by ministers about the devastating effect the virus is having on business and urged to lift social-distancing restrictions.
The warnings from some of his closest ministers, including Paschal Donohoe, Richard Bruton and Michael Ring, come as Mr Varadkar prepares to announce an extension of the nationwide lockdown on Friday.
Meanwhile, Chief Medical Officer Dr Tony Holohan said the impact of the restrictions on jobs and older people weighs heavily on him as he announced another 59 people have died from the virus.
"It is a really difficult measure. We understand that people are being put out of work or losing their jobs - all of these are part of our consideration as we make recommendations," he said.
However, it also emerged that a third of all private sector employers are now relying on the Government's wage subsidy scheme to pay their staff, while almost 600,000 people yesterday received their €350 weekly pandemic unemployment payment.
The Cabinet also heard that the Department of Social Protection and the Department of Business will have spent their entire annual budgets by June.
This might require a Dail vote on revised estimates for both departments.
On Friday, there is expected to be a slight easing of restrictions based on the advice of the National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet), but ministers are insisting that the Taoiseach consider the economic impact of closing businesses for another two weeks.
"We are all for public health and safety but there are lot of companies who, if they don't get a decision between now and June or August, they'll be closing their doors and won't be opening them again," one minister said.
Another minister added: "We need a strong government with a mandate to make decisions so it doesn't all fall back on an unelected health committee."
The Taoiseach asked his ministers for their views on the easing of restrictions after the bank holiday weekend.
He and Health Minister Simon Harris did not give their colleagues any indication of their exit strategy.
"It was all very depressing and neither of them gave us much hope," one minister said.
However, it is understood Business Minister Heather Humphreys is working on 'return to work guidelines', which will be issued later this week to allow people to plan for when restrictions are lifted.
Mr Donohoe was among those at the Cabinet meeting who said social-distancing rules should be eased, especially for those over 70, and suggested schools should reopen.
He is believed to have said a strong government is needed to make tough public health and economic decisions.
Mr Ring warned that small businesses in rural Ireland will close permanently if they are not given a clear plan for how social-distancing rules will be eased in the coming weeks.
Mr Bruton said the crisis was now more than just a health issue and the economic side also needed to be addressed.
Disability Minister Finian McGrath said restrictions should be eased for older people and suggested some construction workers be allowed to return to work.
On the other side of the debate, Transport Minister Shane Ross, Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan and Defence Minister Paul Kehoe urged caution on lifting restrictions.
Mr Kehoe also urged the Taoiseach to explore the possibility of allowing some non-contact sports, such as horse racing, to return so people could watch it on television during the lockdown.