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Ban on non-Covid-related surgery is lifted as health chiefs widen criteria for virus testing

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Dr Tony Holohan. Picture: Steve Humphreys

Dr Tony Holohan. Picture: Steve Humphreys

Dr Tony Holohan. Picture: Steve Humphreys

A blanket ban on non-Covid related surgeries, introduced at the start of the nationwide lockdown, has been lifted.

The National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet) decided hospitals can return to taking non-elective surgery appointments.

It is up to individual hospitals to decide how many cases they can take.

Nphet wrote to the HSE making it aware the ban on surgeries introduced at the beginning of the crisis has now been lifted.

Hospital waiting lists have been rising steadily during the coronavirus crisis.

Meanwhile, many more people will now be eligible for testing for the virus.

GPs were informed last night the criteria for testing had been widened. Testing will no longer be confined to at-risk priority groups but include people who have a potential symptom of the virus such as a sudden cough, fever or shortness of breath.

Contacts of people with confirmed or probable virus will also be tested.

Meanwhile any moves to fast-track the roadmap for the reopening of the country were dampened yesterday as chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan said the approach to stopping the spread of the coronavirus would continue to be "conservative".

"We need to be conservative. That is the right thing to say to the public," he said. "We need to satisfy ourselves that the easing of any restriction does not lead to an untoward spread of the virus."

He did not want to be in a position where there was a loosening of restrictions which then had to be reversed but "if we have to do that, we will do that", he warned.

The roadmap setting out the stages for the reopening of business and social activities runs in phases from mid-May to August, but publicans believe they could resume trade earlier than the planned date of August 10.

Dr Holohan said he believed the roadmap got the balance right.

Asked his views on fast-­forwarding the opening of pubs he said, as set out by vintners groups, he replied he had not seen the plan.

Vintners said early on in the pandemic they found it difficult to comply with social distancing, he said.

Nphet will set out its advice but will not be prescribing rules for particular sectors, he added.

He was speaking as the sad death of another 23 people with Covid-19 was announced, bringing the death toll to 1,339.

Another 211 newly confirmed cases of the virus were diagnosed. It means 21,983 confirmed cases have been found here so far.

Progress

More women than men are getting the infection and the median age of confirmed cases is 49 years.

There are now 90 patients in intensive care, which is another slight fall.

Fewer than five adults a day are being admitted to these units, marking progress in the numbers severely affected by the virus. A further two clusters have been notified in nursing homes bringing the number so far to 229.

Overall, 5,174 residents and staff in long-term residential settings have tested positive, including 4,108 in nursing homes, a rise of 59.

There have been 819 deaths from the virus in long-term settings of which 706 were among nursing home residents.

Asked about complacency and reports that groups of people have been meeting up around the canal in Dublin over the weekend, Dr Holohan said if people stopped complying the infection would not reduce and the restrictions would have to be in place for longer.

Irish Independent