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NPHET to be 'significantly scaled back' from late October as restrictions end

NPHET and its sub-groups will move out of the ‘emergency phase’ of the pandemic.

Image: Sam Boal

Updated Aug 31st 2021, 7:55 PM

THE NATIONAL PUBLIC Health Emergency Team (NPHET) is to be scaled back significantly after 22 October. 

Government and public health sources have indicated that NPHET and its sub-groups will move out of the ‘emergency phase’ of the pandemic in a planned move lead by Chief Medical Officer Dr Tony Holohan. 

It comes as Government announced an end to remaining Covid-19 restrictions this evening. 

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 as the emergency phase ends. 

Some members of NPHET will revert to their original posts and duties with press briefings no longer taking place after October. 

As NPHET unwinds and steps into the background for the first time in over 500 days, there are said to be some concerns in Government as to the extent in which public commentary or appearances from members might undermine the planned roadmap or cause confusion or concern among the public.

Up until now, NPHET members had held weekly briefings with the media and regularly appear on TV and radio programmes to explain their advice to government.

However, it’s understood the various NPHET members are set to be making fewer public appearances in the coming months as ministers manage the next phase of exiting the crisis.

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 to Government.

Speaking this evening, Tánaiste Leo Varadkar said the country “should be grateful to members of NPHET for the work they’ve done over the last 18 months. 

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“Most of the advice they’ve given us has been right most of the time and that’s not easy in this kind of work and we shouldn’t forget that many members of NPHET also had full-time jobs.

“The entire of our society owes them an enormous debt of gratitude and the fact that we didn’t always see eye to eye or agree on everything didn’t mean we weren’t always on the same side,” said Varadkar. 

He added there is no firm date for winding down NPHET but that it is intended the team will return to a “less public-facing role”.

 

-  with reporting by Christina Finn

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