The resumption of fertility treatment is a step closer for Irish patients following new guidelines issued by the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology (ESHRE).

Hundreds of patients have been in limbo following advice last month to cancel treatments. 

The ESHRE recommendation on 15 March was based on concerns over the impact of Covid-19 on early pregnancy. However, the body has issued new guidance outlining how treatments can resume. 

"As the Covid-19 pandemic is stabilising, the return to normal daily life will also see the need to restart the provision of ART (assisted reproductive technology) treatments," it said in a statement. 

"Infertility is a disease and once the risk of infection is decreasing, all ART treatments can be restarted for any clinical indication, in line with local regulations."

The guidance also says "vigilance and measured steps must be taken" to minimise the risks of Covid-19 for patients and staff during treatment.

Around 6,000 IVF cycles are undertaken every year in Ireland. 

ReproMed, which operates clinics in Dublin and Galway, said it would resume treatments when Government restrictions on movement have been eased.

"We currently aim to reopen our clinics to phase in our fertility services in early May," the clinic said in a statement.
 
"Covid-19 remains the greatest public health issue that any of us will have experienced in our lifetimes, and we must continue to adhere to strict social distancing guidelines when we are treating patients." 

ESHRE recommends that patients and staff complete a "triage" questionnaire two weeks before resuming treatment to establish if they have symptoms of coronavirus or if they are at risk of exposure. 

Patients who are deemed low risk and who do not have symptoms can proceed to treatment. Clinics should be "open minded" about treating patients who have had Covid-19 and recovered, the advice says.

The ESHRE also recommends that, depending on the size of the clinic, staff should be subdivided into "mini-teams" with minimum interactions among them.