More 'county lockdowns' will be rolled out across the country in a bid to stamp out clusters of Covid-19 at their source.
Gardaí are to mount checkpoints in Kildare, Offaly and Laois for the next two weeks in an attempt to keep 385,000 residents in effective lockdown.
Non-essential travel to and from the counties is now banned while restaurants, pubs and other industries were told they must close their doors.
The move was met with a backlash from some business representatives who described it as a "knee-jerk reaction" and claim it will cost jobs.
Acting chief medical officer Dr Ronan Glynn admitted he was "not surprised that people are angry" but argued the situation "is really rapid, an awful lot can happen in 24 hours, never mind two weeks".
Taoiseach Micheál Martin called for "constant vigilance" from the public and said he wants everyone to "continue putting the virus under pressure".
"We are all responsible for each other. By acting responsibly and following the advice, each of us will protect all of us," he said.
Mr Martin's warning came as the HSE announced 98 new cases of Covid-19 and the deaths of four people who contracted the virus. The figures included 35 new cases in Kildare, 26 in Offaly and five in Laois.
However, CEO of County Kildare Chamber Alan Shine warned at least 1,200 people will be laid off due to a "needless, irresponsible and knee-jerk" Government reaction which has "failed business in the region". Mr Shine said there has been "absolutely no engagement or consultation" from the National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet), the HSE or the Government with local businesses before they imposed the lockdown.
"We are at pains to understand why Nphet and the Government could not take the stance to order a comprehensive sweep of community testing in the areas affected in Kildare, Laois and Offaly," he said. "It's incredible there is no testing area in Kildare with a population of over 220,000 people."
Mr Shine said people with suspected cases have to travel to Dublin for testing, sometimes by public transport.
Fianna Fáil TD James Lawless was also critical of the lack of testing facilities in Kildare.
"I am aware of one family who had to travel to a testing facility at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin, and others who were invited for testing but did not travel due to difficulties in getting to the stadium," he said.
Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald said the three counties were "paying the price" for a lack of inspections in meat factories and Direct Provision centres.
"This must be urgently addressed, the community must be protected," she said. The decision to lock down the three counties followed a Nphet meeting which recommended the reintroduction of quarantine measures.
Dr Glynn informed the Taoiseach and Health Minister Stephen Donnelly of their guidance. After the meeting, Mr Martin called Tánaiste Leo Varadkar and Green Party leader Eamon Ryan to inform them of the public health advice on the rise in cases.
A memo on the new restrictions was then agreed through an incorporeal Cabinet meeting which involves a government official phoning ministers asking them for approval.
The decision angered some ministers who insisted locking down three counties should have been decided after a Cabinet debate.
"There really should have been a Cabinet debate on such a significant decision which is impacting on hundreds of thousands of people," a minister said.
Another senior government source said: "The warning signs have been in place for over two weeks so why no action before now?" Why no measures for meat factories or Direct Provision centres?"
As of today, there will be garda checkpoints monitoring citizens movement around Kildare, Offaly and Laois.
Cafes, restaurants and pubs operating as restaurants will have to close unless they are doing takeaway service or have outdoor dining.
Indoor gatherings are to be reduced to a maximum of six people from no more than three households and outdoor gatherings limited to a maximum of 15 people. Cinemas, theatres, museums, galleries, bingo halls, casinos, betting shops and other indoor recreational and cultural outlets will also be closed.