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Saturday 28 January 2023 Dublin: 6°C
Sam Boal File image of Leo Varadkar and Tony Holohan speaking to press.
# nphet
CMO spoke to Health Minister before and after NPHET's Level 5 recommendation
Tánaiste Leo Varadkar said the Level 5 recommendation “came out of the blue” on Sunday.

LAST UPDATE | Oct 7th 2020, 9:18 PM

THE HEALTH MINISTER Stephen Donnelly and the Chief Medical Officer Dr Tony Holohan discussed the “deteriorating epidemiological situation” before NPHET gave its Level 5 recommendation on Sunday evening. 

A spokesperson for the Health Minister said he informed the Taoiseach on Saturday afternoon that a NPHET meeting would be held on Sunday “arising out of concerns about escalating case numbers”.

Donnelly and Dr Holohan “spoke before and after” the NPHET meeting on Sunday, the spokesperson said. 

Before the meeting, they discussed the “deteriorating epidemiological situation”. 

Minister Donnelly and Taoiseach Micheál Martin communicated after both of these conversations between Holohan and Donnelly on Sunday. 

Earlier today, Tánaiste Leo Varadkar and Chief Medical Officer Dr Tony Holohan both said that they spoke on the phone last night, following the Tánaiste’s criticism of NPHET the previous night.  

Varadkar reiterated that he was “unhappy” about NPHET’s recommendation on Sunday night to enter the country into Level 5, but said the CMO and government are “on the same team”. 

Varadkar first expressed his views on RTÉ’s Claire Byrne Live on Monday night, saying the recommendation “came out of the blue” stating that nobody knew Level 5 was being contemplated until Sunday.

Just three days earlier, Thursday’s letter from NPHET had not recommended a move from Level 2 for the rest of the country.

“Government and NPHET have to get back on the same page,” he said, adding that people “won’t see a repeat of this” late-night recommendation. 

On Monday, Donnelly explained at a press conference that one of the reasons the government said no to NPHET on this occasion was they did not believe  the data had “sufficiently changed in those three days” to justify a Level 5 lockdown. 

The minister said the government would have liked to see longer term data trends presented to them “given the severity of the recommendation” and the “seriousness of what was being recommended” by NPHET.

He said the government would have wanted to see a bigger difference in the underlying data. 

Speaking to press today, the Tánaiste said neither he nor the CMO were “in the business of apologising”. 

“We’re very much on the same team,” he said. 

He added: “I was really, really unhappy about what happened on Sunday night, and the anxiety and the fear that it caused for hundreds of thousands of people.”

Speaking at this evening’s briefing at the Department of Health, Holohan said that he heard Varadkar’s interview and that the pair cleared the air last night. 

He and I had a conversation about it last night and we exchanged views, we had a long conversation about that and then we moved on to have a conversation about the disease. We recognise, he and I have a long standing good relationship over many years, we recognise we need to continue that together over the course of the next weeks and months.

“I can tell you that he understands and shares my analysis every bit as much and has as much concern about it as I do,” Holohan said. 

Speaking later about the government’s decision to move the country to Level 3 and not Level 5, Holohan said he supports that the government has different considerations to NPHET. 

“We have a job to do here which is to make an assessment of the disease and to make our advice and recommendations available to government. Government has a different job. It has to consider a range of other considerations and come to a balanced decision based on all of those considerations,” he said.

Not only do I respect that but I support it, the government has to take account of factors which fall well outside of our areas of expertise, but we still have a sober job to do to make the continuing assessment of the disease, which is what we’ve done on this occasion. 

“I had an opportunity to talk directly to the Taoiseach this morning and it’s absolutely abundantly clear to me, they need us onboard doing our jobs at our desks the way that we’ve done up to now and the way we’re going to continue to,” Holohan added.

 With reporting by Christina Finn and Rónán Duffy


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