IRELAND'S DEPARTMENT of Health has warned that the acute phase of the Covid-19 pandemic could go on for years.
Ireland has just entered phase one of its planned reopening of the country, with some restrictions eased since Monday, 18 May, but while daily figures continue to drop there is a long road ahead before things get back to normal.
Secretary General of the Department of Health, Jim Breslin, spoke at the Dáil's Covid-19 committee where he first praised Ireland's progress in tackling the virus, noting that without the restrictions Ireland could have had 39,000 deaths.
However, the reopening of the country, even in delayed phases, involves a "calculated risk".
"This is not a one, two or even a three-day storm, after which we move to the recovery phase," he said.
"The acute phase of this crisis will definitely be measured in months and most probably in years, rather than days."
He stated: "The threat from the virus will be a reality for the foreseeable future."
There remains high concerns that essential healthcare services-- such as screenings for cervical cancer-- have not resumed since the pandemic began, and that hundreds of people's lives are being put at risk by delays.
However CEO of the Health Service Executive (HSE) Paul Reid has said restoring these services while protecting the public from the virus proves "a big challenge".
"Nobody will thank us if we restore services in a way and we see public health outbreaks from the virus," he told the committee.
Secretary General Breslin, in his opening speech, said that the health service is facing a very challenging position for the foreseeable future, but wanted to assure the public that other healthcare services are being ramped up in both public and private hospitals.
He admitted however that the extra capacity in Ireland's private hospitals will be needed in the future if the country is hit by a second wave of the virus.