Ireland's Chief Medical Officer Dr. Tony Holohan has warned that Ireland faces further restrictions if COVID-19 infection rates do not improve. 

Holohan told RTÉ's Morning Ireland that the National Public Health Emergency Team will closely monitor the situation over the next week and added that it is important that it sees some signs of improvement.

"If we think it is necessary to give difficult advice, then we will do so," Holohan told Morning Ireland. 

He said that the Government cannot force people to obey COVID-19 restrictions and added that it was up to the public to help reduce transmission levels by making changes to their lifestyles. 

Holohan's comments come just days after the Irish government introduced a midnight closing time for bars and clubs and it urged people to work from home unless it is unavoidable to help combat the spread of the virus.

The Irish Mirror reports that NPHET will meet on Thursday to discuss the COVID-19 situation, including the impact of the new restrictions. 

In a separate interview with Newstalk, Holohan admitted that the new 12 midnight closing times will not help reduce infection rates but said that it helps to "send up a signal" about how serious the situation is. 

He said that COVID-19 was a "preventable respiratory infection". 

A total of 4,181 new cases of COVID-19 were reported on Sunday, November 21, while Ireland's reproduction level now stands at 1.25. There are currently 685 patients in Irish hospitals with COVID-19, while 126 ICU patients have tested positive for the virus. 

Holohan said that there are currently issues with ICU capacity and said that it is unacceptable that admissions from a preventable illness were putting a strain on capacity. 

He pointed to other European countries that have imposed tough lockdown restrictions despite having more ICU beds available than Ireland. 

Holohan said that antigen tests had a role to play in the fight against the current wave of infection but added that the tests are being incorrectly used at present. 

He said that one in five adults reported using an antigen test last week when they showed symptoms of COVID-19, which is not the public health advice. 

Anyone with COVID-19 symptoms should take a PCR test, while people should use antigen tests if they are asymptomatic, he said. 

They should also not rely on a negative result from an antigen test. 

He also revealed that only one in three people who returned a positive antigen test last week had subsequently taken a PCR test. 

Holohan believes that the public can help cut transmission rates by showing "good" behavior and following public health advice. 

Last week, Tanáiste Leo Varadkar said that "enhanced restrictions" may be needed to help curb the spread of infection. 

"Unfortunately and it's hard to say this, but the situation is difficult and we're going to have to get through a difficult winter." Varadkar told Virgin News last week. 

Holohan also advised people to reduce social contacts and avoid going to Christmas parties in a statement last week. 

The Restaurants Association of Ireland said last week that the narrative about reducing social contacts was "de facto imposing restrictions" on the hospitality sector at a critical time of the year.