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'A hug for granny still off-limits unless you're in low-risk county', says top prof

Use your own judgment as measures eased, over-70s told

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A woman stops to photograph a mural by Irish artist Emmalene Blake in South Dublin. Photo: PA

A woman stops to photograph a mural by Irish artist Emmalene Blake in South Dublin. Photo: PA

PA

A woman stops to photograph a mural by Irish artist Emmalene Blake in South Dublin. Photo: PA

Grandparents are still being advised against hugging their grandchildren from next Monday due to Covid-19 - but a quick cuddle in counties that have seen little of the virus for weeks could be allowed.

The over-70s can have visitors to their homes or visit other households but they must keep two metres apart, according to the latest guidelines on phase three of the roadmap from June 29.

Beaumont Hospital's Professor Sam McConkey, a specialist in infectious diseases, said grandparents could make their own judgment about hugging a grandchild at a reunion.

A quick hug could be fine in counties like Donegal or Sligo where there has been no transmission for more than a month, he suggested.

"It depends on the time together. They could hug but they then need to physically distance for two metres during the visit," he said.

Safety

The guidelines from chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan say cocooning is still recommended for the safety of the over-70s and people who are medically vulnerable.

"But it is important that people who are cocooning feel empowered to exercise their own judgment and autonomy regarding the extent to which they consider the cocooning guidance is appropriate to their individual circumstances," the guidelines add.

If they have had visitors they should avoid touching surfaces they have been in contact with.

If cocooners are intending to take a holiday in Ireland from next week, they should do their homework in advance about the level of virus in their destination and consider how best to protect themselves.

Prof McConkey said a key message for men in particular as the country reopened was not to delay contacting their GP and asking for a test for the virus if they had symptoms like a cough and fever.

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Shoppers wearing masks on Henry Street. Photo: Collins Dublin, Gareth Chaney

Shoppers wearing masks on Henry Street. Photo: Collins Dublin, Gareth Chaney

Collins Dublin, Gareth Chaney

Shoppers wearing masks on Henry Street. Photo: Collins Dublin, Gareth Chaney

"Irish men are notoriously bad at going to the doctor if they have cough or fever," he said.

"They should call the doctor the same day to have their nose swabbed. I don't think the average Irish man has fully realised that yet.

"This is going to come back - the virus has not gone completely. If anyone gets sick they need to look for a test quickly and self-isolate."

Prof McConkey said shops should also look at whether they could make wearing face masks a condition of entry. Everyone should have eight or 10 masks bought or made, he added.

It emerged a gathering of 50 people indoors - which would cover weddings - would include staff and a band.

The guidelines say choir rehearsals have previously been linked to outbreaks in a number of countries, including the UK and United States.

There is some evidence that playing brass and some woodwind instruments in groups may be associated with a higher risk of infection due to increased droplet transmission.

Guidelines suggest singers, choirs and musicians with brass and some woodwind instruments should consider protective equipment and measures to minimise the potential for droplet or aerosol emission, such as instrument covers, screens or face coverings.

Meanwhile, the Department of Health reported no deaths from the virus yesterday.

There were six new cases diagnosed, bringing the number with the infection so far to 25,379.

Quarantine

People are still advised not to undertake any non-essential travel abroad. Everyone landing at airports here should quarantine for two weeks.

It comes as overseas visitors began arriving in Spain yesterday as the country reopened its borders and the three-month state of emergency declared in response to the coronavirus pandemic came to an end.

As the second most-visited country in the world, Spain is desperate to reactivate its tourism sector as soon as possible.

Its government has launched a publicity campaign called Spain for Sure in an effort to reassure visitors and fire up the industry, which makes up about 12pc of the country's GDP.

Visitors from so-called third countries will be allowed back to Spain from July 1.