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Ten boxes to be ticked on checklist before restrictions can finally be eased

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Chief medic Dr Tony Holohan

Chief medic Dr Tony Holohan

Colin Keegan

Chief medic Dr Tony Holohan

Chief Medical Officer Dr Tony Holohan and his team must find the safest path to ease the coronavirus lockdown next week.

The checklist is full of unknowns, risk and deep uncertainty.

1 - The human cost

Any decision will have to be weighed against the impact it might have on deaths. The highest risk remains to people over 65 who account for more than nine in 10 fatalities.

2 - Avoiding an Italian-style tsunami

The spectre of Italian hospital war-zone scenes remains a chilling reminder of what could happen here.

The fall in numbers being admitted to intensive care has slowed down and that is a negative in the list.

3 - Discovering where the virus is lurking

The testing regime here, which has been beset with delays, will have to be one step ahead of the virus. The plan is to carry out 100,000 tests a week by mid-May.

But doubts about this being delivered are likely to lead to a modest response when checking this off the chart.

4 - Controlling the virus in nursing homes

The spread of coronavirus in nursing homes is still not under control and testing of all residents and staff is ongoing.

The scale of infection in these homes will influence the extent of the lockdown exit.

5 - The R number

The number last week was driven down to between 0.5 and 0.8, which means people with the coronavirus are on average infecting less than one person. It gives scope to maybe take a few risks in lifting measures.

6 - Pace of success

The trend has been downwards in the spread of infection but the daily number of new cases and deaths remains high. Countries to have begun lifting lockdowns have been in a much stronger position.

7 - Public patience

There have been signs that more people are getting restless and are moving about more. Getting compliance may be easier if there is some relaxation.

8 - Lifting the nation's mood

The strain on the nation's mental health is beginning to show. Dr Holohan and his team will have to weigh up the benefits of lifting the recommendation that all over-70s stay inside with the risk they face outdoors because of their age.

9 - Fear of catching the virus in hospital

Part of any post-lockdown has to ensure that patients with non-coronavirus illness are brought back to hospital and that surgeries and clinics resume in regular volume.

10 - Playing politics

The inherent caution of the public health plan has to be sold to the Government as the nation grapples with recession.