Q: There is no timeline yet for the ending of our coronavirus lockdown. But have we got some hint of what to expect with a pattern of 'stop-start' emergency measures in the months ahead?
: The best insight emerged in a response from Chief Medical Officer Dr Tony Holohan when asked to put some schedule on our lockdown exit. He said this was not possible but what we will see over time is a relaxation in emergency measures. But the spread of the virus has to be kept under control and a deterioration would result in some or all measures being reintroduced.
Q: A big factor in exiting lockdown is that the growth in cases is suppressed dramatically, and intensive care admissions are manageable. What else is needed?
A: Growth in cases is still under 9pc and there is a way to go. We need to have our testing regime in proper order. Test results now take several days. But it will be necessary to have tests back in 24 to 48 hours.
This would allow monitoring of the spread of the virus not just in the wider community but also in nursing homes and hospitals. The quicker the test is back, the faster contacts of the infected person can be traced.
Q: So if restrictions are eased and the testing is up to standard, what then?
A: There would be some semblance of returning to normal life. It's hard to see which business closures or personal freedoms would be relaxed first. It would be a big decision to allow pubs to open. Part of the criteria will be areas of most "societal benefit". But schools seem unlikely to resume until the autumn.
Q: So what would trigger a resumption of restrictive measures?
A: If the testing surveillance shows 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 may be confined to specific locations rather than countrywide. The post-lockdown experience of other countries is also being watched closely.
Q: How soon will the testing regime be up to standard?
A: At the moment tests are being sent to a German lab and apart from the National Virus Reference Laboratory, others like the Enfer labs are coming into use. But a proper supply of reliable reagents will be key.
Q: It could be early next year before a coronavirus vaccine is available so is it fair to say that 2020 will be full of uncertainty?
A: This first phase has not passed and a peak has not been reached. The message from experts yesterday was that measures are needed for a "prolonged period" yet.