CMO: Too early to say if road map to reopening society should be moved forward

Ireland's road map to reopening society is not set in stone and can be moved forward, but it is too early to say if it will be, says the Chief Medical Officer.

Dr Tony Holohan was speaking as a further 11 people were confirmed to have died from Covid-19, with a week-high of 115 new cases also reported.

Due to the falling number of infections, there had been some suggestion that Ireland could accelerate its way through reopening, but Dr Holohan says such a decision is some time away.

"I've said before we wouldn't treat this framework, the four phases, as being some kind of constitution that couldn't be changed in any circumstance or something very rigid.

"But we still think it's the right framework based on our current understanding of the virus. We are still a few short months into an experience of a transmissible illness.

"We're still experiencing very low levels of infection, all the indicators that we looked at, which gave us reason to recommend to government last Friday that now is the time to ease those restrictions, we haven't seen any worrying trend in relation to those, but it is too early to say."

Dr Holohan said that large gatherings of people as seen in the early parts of this week were "unfortunate" and said the recent rain and wind were welcome.

One of the things we expressed concern about before we ever get to this point was anticipatory behaviour, or simply, if we made a recommendation perhaps easing measures in a particular way and if the public got ahead of us, and start doing some of the things we unfortunately saw, it would facilitate spread.

Dr Holohan said that he is "sensitive of the impact of the restrictions on children" but said that it was not the case that NPHET is banning grandparents from hugging their grandchildren.

"I don't really want to characterise it as deciding when it's appropriate for children to hug their grandparents.

"We are really sensitive to how important that is for people and how painful it is for that to be missing from people's lives, but it has to be said that given the nature of transmission of this virus direct physical contact between two people carries with a greater risk of transmission of this virus than where you haven't got direct physical contact.

"That's just a reality of the infection."