The Irish health authorities have voiced concern at the current Covid-19 infection rate, particularly in the counties of Kildare, Laois and Offaly.
There have been 226 new cases in total across the three counties in the past fortnight, accounting for almost half of all new cases during that period.
The acting chief medical officer said the volume of cases in the area was “significant” and he urged vigilance.
Irish broadcaster RTÉ reported “local restrictions” have not been ruled out.
RTÉ added that the government and National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET) are expected to issue updated guidance to residents of Kildare, Laois and Offaly later on Friday.
However, junior government minister Sean Fleming has already urged all sporting organisations to call off matches in the three counties this weekend.
A large number of the Kildare cases are linked to outbreaks in meat and food processing factories.
One Kildare employer, O’Brien Fine Foods in Timahoe, confirmed it has suspended operations after 80 of its staff tested positive for Covid-19.
In a statement, the food company said it had engaged private testing provider and said “the level of asymptomatic infectivity appears to be very high”.
‘An R number of almost 2 is a serious concern’
On Thursday evening, Prof Philip Nolan from the NPHET confirmed that the Republic’s of Ireland’s R rate is now estimated to be 1.8.
The R rate, or reproduction rate, refers to the average number of people a newly-infected person is expected to pass the virus on to after contracting the disease.
Prof Nolan said “a reproduction number of almost 2 is a serious concern”.
He added that “although we have not yet seen a significant increase in community transmission, there is a significant risk this could develop over the coming days and weeks”.
Prof Nolan chairs the NPHET’s Irish Epidemiological Modelling Advisory Group.
Acting Chief Medical Officer Dr Ronan Glynn urged people in Kildare, Laois and Offaly to “remain vigilant to stop the further spread of Covid-19 in these areas”.
“While the majority of these cases can be accounted for by outbreaks, this volume of cases is significant and our main priority now is to ensure that these outbreaks do not lead to widespread community transmission in the region,” Dr Glynn said.