The vast majority of people are unlikely to enjoy any easing of the national COVID-19 restrictions next week.
The National Public Health Emergency Team is meeting this morning to discuss whether they should be extended beyond May 5th.
However, ministers will be warned not to expect any major changes to the restrictions at this morning ‘s Cabinet meeting
Over-70s may be permitted to exercise outside their homes once a day and outdoor workers may be able to return; however, for the majority, little will change.
The Government is expected to announce the next steps in the fight against the virus on Friday afternoon.
While the restrictions are expected to remain in force, officials are expected to announce a road-map for a phased return to normal life over the summer.
Speaking last night, the Chief Medical Officer he was now “more firmly of the view” that if he was deciding what to do with restrictions today, he would not lift them.
— NewstalkFM (@NewstalkFM) April 27, 2020
He said officials wanted to see a drop in the number of people in intensive care, a drop in the number of new cases and improvements in the situation at residential care facilities before they will consider relaxing restrictions.
This morning, the criteria for COVID-19 testing are being broadened to include more suspected cases of the virus.
People with either a fever, a recent cough, or shortness of breath can now look for a test.
Dr Holohan said the change will see an increase in confirmed cases.
“We have seen a lot of cases being confirmed in the last week,” he said.
“That has been driven in a significant way by the numbers of people being diagnosed in the nursing home and community residential sector sampling programme that is underway at the moment.
“But there is still a background rate in the general population of infections. When we change the case definition during the curse of this week, we will see more referrals, we will see more testing and I expect to see more cases arising from that.”
He said the change in criteria was “always one of the important preparatory steps” for any easing of restrictions.
“If the impact leads to a much greater number of people coming forward for testing, we need to be in a position to pick that up and make any necessary adjustments arising from that,” he said.
The Health Minister Simon Harris said the Government would continue to follow public health advice.
“We can’t do anything that is politically expedient or anything that would put people’s lives at risk,” he said.
“The National Public Health Emergency Team will meet and it will begin to have a look at what are the metrics? What does success look like?
“Where do we need to get to in terms of certain things like ICU admissions new cases, different rates to know whether it is safe or not to begin easing some restrictions.
“They will then meet again on Friday and evaluate that.”
Meanwhile, the Irish College of General Practitioners said the increase in testing is welcome.
“As we approach next week where there is a hope the lockdown scenario will be eased, we have to do a lot more testing and tracing to make sure that the country stays on top of COVID-19 and this pandemic can come to an end.”
An announcement on the restrictions is expected after a special Cabinet meeting on Friday.