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Taoiseach declines to comment on rumours that NPHET is to be disbanded

It follows reports that the group will be wound up by October.

Micheál Martin (file photo)
Micheál Martin (file photo)
Image: Leah Farrell/RollingNews.ie

TAOISEACH MICHEÁL MARTIN has refused to confirm or deny reports that the National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET) will be disbanded whilst insisting that public health advice “will always be central to the Government approach to Covid-19″.

NPHET, headed by Chief Medical Officer Dr Tony Holohan, is to be wound up in October according to the Irish Independent, as latest figures show that almost 88% of people here are fully vaccinated.

On a visit to the Royal Cork Yacht Club in Crosshaven today the Taoiseach emphasised that countries that have placed public health advice at the core of decision making are doing best in terms of mortality, incidence and managing the pandemic. 

“From my perspective as a former Minister for Health public health advice is critical and the Chief Medical Officer leads that and will continue to lead that,” Martin said. 

“We will decide on Monday or Tuesday in terms of next steps but the key decisions to be made will relate to how we reopen key parts of society.”

The Taoiseach said the Government is looking at how best to “transition in to normalcy in terms of how Government works”. 

tony h CMO Dr Tony Holohan Source: Sam Boal/RollingNews.ie

The latest case count shows that 1,997 new infections have been recorded in Ireland along with 324 Covid-19 patients in hospital, with 61 in intensive care.

“In terms of the institutions’ work as well and the agencies. The Chief Medical Officer is a key officer within the Department of Health and leads the public health campaign and public health advice and that will continue.

“But precise formats and so on in terms of the task force, in terms of the senior officials group – all that will be looked at.

“How do we transition now from what has been an emergency situation for a long period in to creating if you like a more normal environment to deal with the next phase? All of that still remains to be decided.”

He said we are heading in to the a “a new era” in terms of managing Covid 19 with the disease having had many “twists and turns” which could yet again come in to play. He admitted that the Government was concerned about the impact of the Delta variant.

In terms of the seven countries which remain on the quarantine list for entry in to Ireland the Taoiseach said that the plan is to  take a “step by step approach” having substantially reopened international travel. 

Reopening the arts

Meanwhile, the Taoiseach denied that the sporting sector is being favoured over live entertainment in terms of the reopening of society.

He said the “key issue” with Electric Picnic was that it didn’t get planning permission.

“Designating any event a pilot can’t overcome the planning issues. There will be consultation with the promoters. That is beginning during the week and on Monday to see what are the options here.” 

Martin added that the Government wants to reopen society safely.

“So far we have been doing it on a gradual basis. And it has worked. But as soon as we reopen one sector the next sector quite obviously and understandably wants to accelerate its reopening.

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“But there is no selective favouring one sector over the other. We did pilots in the arts and live music but the difficulty and the difference is that in the entertainment world they need high capacities.

 This differs for sport, Martin continued, as 50 percent capacity stadiums means “they won’t need support or subsidies from the State”.

He added: “That said our objective is to reopen. We want people to play music again . . . We want people to go to theatre again in good numbers and I think we can do that quickly in terms of the vaccinated to go back in to theatres.”

ep pic Revelers at Electric Picnic Source: Sam Boal

The Taoiseach stressed that the arts is wide ranging in terms of its spectrum, from the theatre to live entertainment “like the guitarist at a reception right on to Electric Picnic”

“We do need to lift restrictions across the board over time,” he added. 

Martin said realistically there is also a big difference between an outdoor concert and two or three day festivals which have more challenges in terms of preventing the transmission of Covid. 

He added that it was vital that people continue to wear masks and social distance at events like the All Ireland football semi final and final.

“It is supremely important that people wear masks and social distancing happens. Outside of the stadium also where there is bigger challenges arise. That is equally important.”

About the author:

Olivia Kelleher

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