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Is a relaxation of lockdown rules possible soon?

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Testing must improve

Testing must improve

Testing must improve

Question: Although there's no timeline yet for the ending of our coronavirus lockdown, have we got some hint of what to expect with a pattern of "stop-start" measures in the months ahead?

Answer: The best insight yet emerged in a response from chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan when asked to put some schedule on our lockdown exit. He said this wasn't possible, but over time there will be a relaxation of emergency measures.

However, the spread has to be kept under scrutiny, and any deterioration would result in some or all measures being reintroduced.

Question: A big factor in exiting lockdown is that growth in new cases is down dramatic- ally. What else?

Answer: There will be no foot taken off the brake until we have our coronavirus testing regime in proper order.

Test results now take several days, but it will be necessary to have tests back in real time - 24 to 48 hours. This would allow monitoring of the spread of the virus. The quicker the test is back, the faster contacts of the infected person can be traced.

Question: If restrictions are eased and the testing is up to standard, what then?

Answer: There would be a semblance of returning to normal life. It's difficult to see which business closures or personal freedoms would be relaxed first.

It would be a big decision to allow pubs to open. Schools, though, are unlikely to resume now until the autumn, and the summer holidays naturally take care of a few months.

Question: What would trigger a resumption of restrictive measures?

Answer: If the testing surveillance showed an increase or particular spike anywhere, the decision would have to be made to reintroduce some measures.

Some areas might see a surge and hospitals could be left struggling. Measures might be needed in particular locations so possibly may not be imposed on a countrywide basis.

Question: How soon will the testing regime be up to standard?

Answer: Tests are being sent to a German lab, and apart from the National Virus Reference Laboratory, others such as the Enfer labs are coming into use. A key factor will be a proper supply of reliable reagents.

Question: It could be next year before a vaccine is available, so is it fair to say 2020 will be an uncertain time?

Answer: The first phase has not passed, the peak not reached. We must keep foll- owing the rules for now.