Schools are set to remain closed in Ireland until January 11 after the cabinet today agreed tighter Covid-19 restrictions.
UPDATE: The Cabinet has now agreed to impose stronger measures in the light of rapidly rising case numbers.
Schools were due to reopen on January 5 and 6.
Full Level 5 restrictions are to be in place until 31 January.
Other restrictions that will come in to effect are a 5km limit on travel, the closure of non-essential shops, swimming pools and gyms, and the closure of sports including golf and tennis, with the exception of professional or elite sports like Gaelic games and horse racing behind closed doors.
An address to the nation by Taoiseach Micheál Martin is expected later today Wednesday December 30.
Yesterday evening's figure of 1,546 new Covid-19 cases was the highest since the pandemic hit Ireland last February. Northern Ireland also had a record number of cases today, at 2,143.
Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly said that the situation is continuing to deteriorate.
"We are seeing a very rapid increase, an ongoing increase in cases, we are also seeing a very rapid increase in hospitalisations. We need to keep people safe, we need to keep people alive, and we need to keep our hospital system and our healthcare system open.
"So obviously very serious decisions have to be looked at today. The good news however is that we have the vaccine, there are more vaccines coming we are rolling it out, we are accelerating that and so t he strategy is to surprise the virus to give time to vaccinate front line workers and those who are most vulnerable".