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Country not yet ready to go off on holidays - Holohan

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Dublin Airport has been practically empty for weeks

Dublin Airport has been practically empty for weeks

Dublin Airport has been practically empty for weeks

People should not book their summer trip abroad in July despite plans by airlines to resume some normal flight schedules, Chief Medical Officer Dr Tony Holohan said yesterday.

He put a dampener on any non-essential summer getaways and said the country was not ready to go on holidays.

Dr Holohan was questioned after Ryanair announced that it will restart 40pc of its normal flight schedule from July 1.

He replied he would not comment on Ryanair's plan, but said: "We are advising against all non-essential travel. I don't envisage the position to have changed in that time frame."

Airline travel outside Ireland involves social distancing and that presents a challenge.

Crisis

"We don't want to see people coming here for non-essential reasons and leaving for non-essential reasons," added Mr Holohan.

Airlines had been very co- operative in the crisis and he said he would like them to continue to help in the public health fight against the virus.

Mr Holohan was speaking as 107 new cases of the virus were diagnosed yesterday - the lowest daily total in many weeks, boosting prospects that the first phase of the exit from lockdown can start next week.

However, another 24 people were reported to have died from the infection - bringing the death toll to 1,488.

He said he hoped more progress would be made by the end of the week and there continued to be significant numbers of patients in hospital, including in intensive care.

He said it was unclear when there would be a vaccine available and enough global supply, but conceded that it will not be possible to depress the economy and social levels for an extended period of time.

Ireland and the rest of the world collectively needed to "re-engineer society, workplace and social activity" to minimise the risk of transmission, he said.

He added that workplaces would find ways of adapting, limiting the extent to which people came together as much as possible.

Dr Colm Henry, of the HSE, who was asked about delays in virus testing and contact tracing, said the average time to get a result was now averaging five days and the aim was to bring it down to four. This should then reduce to three days.

Experts have warned it is still too slow as Ireland emerges from lockdown, and said the HSE needs to ensure strict surveillance of the virus to pick up any increase in cases.

Dr Henry said once a person was diagnosed as positive, tracing their contacts in straightforward cases could be done the same day.

However, it can take longer if it is more complex and there may be language barriers or other difficulties.

The system for communicating negative results will be automated by early next week which means people will get the information faster, he added.

Dr Emily O'Conor, of Connolly Hospital in Blanchardstown, warned that emergency departments, or hospitals, cannot be allowed to become crowded again and be centres of healthcare-associated infection.

Dr O'Conor, of the Irish Association of Emergency Medicine, said unoccupied beds must be always available so that once a decision is made that a patient needs to be admitted, this can occur immediately.

"There must be adequate isolation areas on wards so that patients are not kept in the emergency department simply because of infection control concerns," she said.

"Trolley waits are the result of there being insufficient beds for those needing admission."