The entire country is on the brink of the toughest Covid-19 controls after experts recommended Level 5 restrictions for the next four weeks.
Under Level 5, people will be asked to stay at home, except to exercise within a 5km radius.
No visitors to homes will be allowed, although schools and creches will remain open with protective measures in place.
Restaurants and pubs will only be allowed to open for takeaways or deliveries and only essential retail outlets will be allowed to remain open.
Unlike the first nationwide lockdown, over-70s will be expected to manage their own movements and will not be instructed to stay indoors.Controls
The National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet) is recommending the Level 5 controls for the next four weeks, however, the seeking of maximum lockdown nationwide has shocked the Government.
The three Coalition leaders will meet Chief Medical Officer Dr Tony Holohan today.
The Level 5 restrictions advice comes in a letter from Nphet, after a weekend that saw almost 1,000 new infections.
Dr Holohan returned to chair an unusual Sunday conference of the team, a sign that the situation is regarded as serious.
He had been expected back at his desk today, resuming the helm from Dr Ronan Glynn, his deputy, after taking leave for family reasons in July.
There are now 134 people in hospital with Covid-19, the highest number since June.
The upward creep in infections effectively now pits the Government against the CMO in a possible crisis for the Cabinet in its consideration of public health advice.
"It is very difficult and tough on people. But as a Government we have to stand ready," Public Expenditure Minister Michael McGrath said yesterday.
"Further recommendations from Nphet will be examined swiftly."
Sources last night initially suggested that the Government would not defy any recommendation from Dr Holohan. But when Level 5 was recommended, there was a stunned reaction from Government with one source saying: "This has surprised Government, given its societal and economic indications."
The request for additional restrictions will go to an oversight committee headed by the country's top civil servant, Martin Fraser, which would consider wider societal and economic impacts.
The Cabinet subcommittee on Covid could then meet today. An incorporeal Cabinet meeting could then rubber-stamp any proposals.
Mr McGrath had said he sincerely hoped further restrictions would not be necessary at lunchtime.
"But I think we have to be straight with people. The numbers are deeply concerning and the current trend that we are witnessing is not sustainable," he said.
"I know that people are weary. We are all weary. Everyone has paid a price in terms of their own personal liberty. Many have paid a very significant economic price because of the restrictions that we have had to impose, and the overall economic impact of Covid-19.
"But we need to get on top of this and we need to do more. We all need to ask ourselves what more can we do to adhere to the public health advice, which we all know at this stage."
A total of 364 new confirmed cases of the virus were reported last night. Including Saturday's figure of 613, the weekend total comes to 977.
No new deaths were recorded, with the national toll standing at 1,810 fatalities. There have now been 38,032 confirmed cases of Covid-19, with cases now rising at 4-5pc per day and the R-number moving to between 1.2 and 1.4, showing the virus has not been contained.
Of the cases reported yesterday: 100 were in Dublin, 55 in Cork, 31 in Donegal, 24 in Limerick, 23 in Galway, 17 in Clare, 14 in Sligo, 13 in Roscommon, 10 in Kerry, eight in Tipperary, eight in Wicklow, seven in Kildare, six each in Kilkenny and Offaly, five each in Cavan, Mayo and Meath, with the remaining 27 cases occurring in nine counties.
Infectious disease specialist, Professor Sam McConkey, told the Herald that what is required is really rapid contact tracing and massive investment in public health, "so when we get down to small numbers again from social distancing, we are able to catch the source of every case, and when you find one case, you can find all of the linked cases.Cross
"This is like putting out a wildfire in a forest. There is no point in putting out the main fire if you haven't found every little fire and put all the little fires around it out as well.
"We need to focus on prevention. By using social distancing over a number of weeks, we can get the number under control again."
Separately, over 300 people gathered in a supermarket car park in Tullamore at the weekend for a 'car meet' which took gardaí two hours to disperse. Footage released by gardaí showed around 300 vehicles parked in the car park