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Health chiefs pour cold water on hopes pubs to reopen next month

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Boarded-up and temporarily closed pubs in Temple Bar, Dublin, as the country continues to adhere to lockdown measures. Photo: Paul Faith/AFP via Getty Images

Boarded-up and temporarily closed pubs in Temple Bar, Dublin, as the country continues to adhere to lockdown measures. Photo: Paul Faith/AFP via Getty Images

AFP via Getty Images

Boarded-up and temporarily closed pubs in Temple Bar, Dublin, as the country continues to adhere to lockdown measures. Photo: Paul Faith/AFP via Getty Images

Efforts to fast-track the opening of pubs next month have been delivered a body blow by Chief Medical Officer Dr Tony Holohan.

He said the reopening of pubs would have to be in the latter stages of the roadmap to easing restrictions - in August.

"I am not encouraging sectors to hurry. I do not see this happening in June," he said.

He was speaking as it was announced a further 27 people had died with Covid-19.

It brings the death toll to 1,429, half of whom were nursing home residents.

A further 156 new confirmed cases have been diagnosed, pushing the numbers infected here to 22,541.

Shelve

Dr Holohan said there were encouraging signs an easing of lockdown measures could begin in mid-May, but an assessment would not be made until the end of next week.

Data presented to the National Public Health Emergency Team yesterday showed high levels of compliance with restrictive measures, with a fall-off in a range of activities, from shopping to going to ATMs, since the beginning of March.

Asked about the decision to shelve the Leaving Cert, Dr Holohan said he had not asked for its cancellation.

He said the decision "provides clarity to students" and his team had given public health advice to the Department of Education early on.

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Chief Medical Officer Tony Holohan

Chief Medical Officer Tony Holohan

Colin Keegan

Chief Medical Officer Tony Holohan

Figures on deaths show the highest numbers have been seen in over-85s, who account for 652 fatalities. This is followed by people in their early 80s (304 deaths).

New guidance on when someone who has had coronavirus can return to work is expected to boost efforts to kick-start the economy as the phased easing of lockdown is due to begin later this month.

Dr Holohan said anyone who has had a confirmed diagnosis and recovered within the previous three months could go back to work. It is based on the scientific view that if someone gets the infection and recovers they are unlikely to be reinfected in the early months afterwards.

The decision, which signals the person would have a form of immunity, was made on expert advice by the National Public Health Emergency Team.

It could prove significant as more workplaces reopen over the summer and the lockdown measures are eased.

Meanwhile, some patients who have recovered from Covid-19 in Irish hospitals are having to learn how to walk again.

The hidden impact of the virus on some patients who fought for their lives in intensive care for weeks is forcing them to regain the ability to walk and breathe as normal.

More than 1,400 people who caught the virus and had to be hospitalised have been discharged, but the after-effects have been most severes on those treated in intensive care. They are turning to physiotherapists like Eamon O'Muircheartaigh - son of legendary GAA commentator Micheal - to get them from using a Zimmer frame to being back on their feet.

"Patients who have been in intensive care can be knackered. If you lie in bed for three weeks your muscles can disappear. The heart and lungs get weak," Beaumont Hospital infectious disease consultant Prof Sam McConkey said.

"People need to be reconditioned to build the muscles back up and get the confidence to walk again. They need strength and conditioning. They could start on parallel bars or a Zimmer frame and take steps trying to walk longer distances.

Shelve

"Physiotherapists play a huge role. The focus is so often on doctors and nurses in intensive care, but physiotherapists are also at the bedside helping the patient on a ventilator to clear their throat through repositioning and chest physiotherapy."

Mr O'Muircheartaigh, who is physiotherapist for the Louth senior team, said: "Currently we're not sure of the long-term damage C-19 has done to affected people's lungs due to the fact that the consultant respiratory specialists in our hospitals are still in emergency mode.

"Lungs are quite elastic and in a lot of cases there could be irreversible damage caused where one loses that elasticity as it's replaced by scar tissue, thereby reducing the lung capacity."