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Eamonn Farrell
the end

NPHET's Covid-19 briefings set to end for good as team moves to 'surveillance mode'

The team has lead the response to the pandemic in Ireland since early 2020.

PRESS CONFERENCES HELD by the National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET) look set to come to a permanent end as health officials revert to their original duties later this month. 

Members of NPHET have not held a public briefing since 24 August as the team is set to be scaled back in October and move to a surveillance function.

Sources on the team have indicated that while officials, including Chief Medical Officer Dr Tony Holohan, will occasionally make media appearances it is unlikely that any more press conferences will be held as the country exits the emergency phase of the pandemic. 

A week after members of NPHET last appeared in public, the Government announced that the team would be scaled back significantly after 22 October. 

The team and its sub-groups are set to move out of the ‘emergency phase’ of the pandemic in a planned move lead by Dr Holohan. 

Public health experts will still be available to advise Government but it is expected a smaller team lead by the Department of Health will be put in place and that NPHET will move to a surveillance function.

Some members of NPHET will revert to their original posts and it is understood the Department of Health currently has no plans to hold another media briefing.

Up until now, NPHET members had held bi-monthly or monthly briefings with the media and regularly appeared on TV and radio programmes to explain their advice to government.

The team has lead the response to the pandemic in Ireland since early 2020 and has been called on throughout the Covid-19 emergency to provide public health advice.

In May, NPHET moved its briefings to once a week as the vaccination programme ramped up and has made sporadic appearances since then. The briefings were taking place daily between March and June of last year, as the first wave of the pandemic hit. 

Since the start of the pandemic the briefings have seen a range of health officials gather in front of journalists to announce the latest data from the pandemic, including the number of people who have died and the latest number of positive cases as well as updates on disease trajectory. 

The latest update from NPHET — delivered through a statement — on Thursday evening confirmed that 1,271 new cases of Covid-19 have been recorded in Ireland.

As of 8am, there were 297 patients with Covid-19 in hospital, including 59 in ICU.

Deaths are being announced weekly due to the HSE data breach in May – as of Wednesday, 5,249 people have died with Covid-19 in Ireland.

A total of 7.213 million vaccines have been administered in Ireland against Covid-19.

Earlier this week, Chief Medical Officer Dr Tony Holohan said that “throughout the pandemic, we have seen Irish people make extraordinary efforts to drive down incidence of Covid-19 by following the public health advice”.

“More recently, the response to Ireland’s vaccination programme has been heartening, and now just under 91% of the population aged 16 years and older are fully protected through vaccination. Our collective efforts have protected thousands of people from experiencing the worst outcomes from Covid-19,” Dr Holohan said.

“As more of the activities we enjoy become available to us this week, it is important that we continue this national effort to break the chains of transmission of Covid-19. Vaccination remains our best means of protection and, if vaccination is available to you, then I strongly encourage you to get fully vaccinated as soon as possible,” he said.

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