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Ireland faces ‘crawl’ back to normality after Covid-19, expert warns

The National Public Health Emergency Team is meeting on Tuesday to discuss whether restrictions should be extended beyond May 5.

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Confirmed Covid-19 cases in Ireland are approaching 20,000 (Brian Lawless/PA)

Confirmed Covid-19 cases in Ireland are approaching 20,000 (Brian Lawless/PA)

Confirmed Covid-19 cases in Ireland are approaching 20,000 (Brian Lawless/PA)

Returning to normal life after the Covid-19 emergency will be a crawl due to the complexity of the virus, an infectious disease specialist has warned.

The National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET) will meet on Tuesday morning to review the impact of Covid-19 and the existing measures in place to limit the spread of the disease.

Restrictions are due to expire on Tuesday May 5 but the Chief Medical Officer Tony Holohan has warned they would not be changed drastically.

President of Infectious Disease Society of Ireland and chair of the National Immunisation Advisory Committee Professor Karina Butler said we must be sure that everything is in place to deal with potential outbreaks of Covid-19 when restrictions are eased.

We need all of the things to be in place so we can safely crawl back to normality. I think it will be a crawlProfessor Karina Butler

Prof Butler told RTE Morning Ireland that changes to the testing criteria will give a better idea of how common the virus is in the community.

“We’re in a lot better place than we might have been if decisive steps hadn’t been taken.”

Prof Butler said the safe return to normality will be “a crawl”, warning the virus is “unique and stealthy”.

She said it has been two months since we first encountered the virus and there are now almost 20,000 cases and more than 1,000 deaths.

However, increased testing and rapid contact tracing should help the country to live alongside the virus, she said.

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Dr Tony Holohan, Chief Medical Officer for Department of Health (Steve Humphreys/PA)

Dr Tony Holohan, Chief Medical Officer for Department of Health (Steve Humphreys/PA)

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Dr Tony Holohan, Chief Medical Officer for Department of Health (Steve Humphreys/PA)

“We need all of the things to be in place so we can safely crawl back to normality. I think it will be a crawl.”

The criteria for Covid-19 testing are being broadened from Tuesday morning to include more suspected cases of the virus.

People with either a recent cough, fever or shortness of breath can now get access to a test.

She said increasing the criteria for testing will “give us an overall idea of how prevalent the virus is in the community”.

The Irish College of General Practitioners said the increase in testing is welcome.

“As we approach next week where there is a hope the lockdown scenario will be eased, we have to do a lot more testing and tracing to make sure that the country stays on top of Covid-19 and this pandemic can come to an end.”

An announcement on the whether or not restrictions will be lifted or eased is expected after a special Cabinet meeting on Friday.

PA