The Minister for Health made the comments during a Seanad debate on the extension of emergency powers.

Minister Stephen Donnelly has said mask-wearing may be required into winter in “higher-risk environments” or amid further outbreaks of Covid-19.

The Fianna Fáil politician was addressing the Seanad before it voted to pass emergency health legislation extending state powers to enforce mask-wearing and possible lockdown restrictions until November 9.

Telling the Seanad that “it will be some time yet before there is a sufficient level of the entire population fully vaccinated”, Donnelly said the country was in a “good position” and “ahead of the best-case scenario” in terms of its case numbers as Ireland considers lifting more restrictions.

Donnelly told senators that Ireland would partner with countries “outside the EU as well” to ensure those who are vaccinated do not have to quarantine at home upon arrival in the state.

The Wicklow TD expressed hope that “lighter touch measures” might only be introduced in any new outbreak of Covid-19, but warned Ireland was “not out of the woods yet” and that the trajectory of the virus was “precarious”.

The second stage legislation was voted for by 29 senators with only three senators, Independents Ronan Mullen, Michael McDowell and Sharon Keogan opposing the bill.

Senator Keogan said extraordinary powers afforded by the bill were neither “necessary or proportionate” and “may be permitted by law on a continual and potentially perpetual basis.”