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Dublin: 10°C Thursday 28 January 2021

Ministers push back against Chief Medical Officer, urging for some easing of restrictions

One minister said the briefing had “no good news” with another describing it as “very grim”.

Image: RollingNews.ie

MINISTERS PUSHED FOR  the easing of restrictions during a meeting with Chief Medical Officer Tony Holohan today.

Ministers who attended the meeting said Holohan gave no indication that he would recommend lifting restrictions when the National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET) makes its recommendation to government tomorrow.

The current restrictions, including the advisory that over-70s cocoon themselves by remaining at home during the pandemic, are due to remain in place until next Tuesday. An extension is expected to be confirmed tomorrow. 

One minister said the briefing had “no good news” with another describing it as “very grim”.

Sources said Holohan indicated there would be no easing of restrictions tomorrow. 

The Taoiseach is due to outline the roadmap for lifting the restrictions tomorrow.

He told the Dáil earlier that it would be done in phases, with two to four weeks between each phase.

Ministers were told the current phase of lockdown could last for another three weeks rather than the expected two week extension. 

Any changes coming tomorrow would be “very conservative” said one minister, who added that Holohon said he was “sensitive” to the plight of older people who have to cocoon. 

One minister said there was significant “push back” today from ministers, with concerns being raised about the decision-making process. 

It is understood that Minister for Rural Affairs Michael Ring spoke strongly on the matter, stating the restrictions had gone too far and resulted in the threat of people going bankrupt and businesses not being able to reopen.

One source said there had been little argument with Holohan as he is still seen as a “bit of a God” by some in Cabinet. 

It is believed that Minister of State for Disabilities Finian McGrath took a strong line on supporting carers for people with disabilities by giving them personal protective equipment (PPE). 

He also called for the easing of restrictions for the over 70s, and suggested that some pubs that serve food should be allowed reopen at the same time as restaurants, whenever that phase of reopening begins.  

The issue of sport was also raised with Holohan in terms of people’s mental health. It is understood that Sports Minister Shane Ross raised the prospect of solitary sports such as tennis, golf and swimming returning in an early phase. 

He said sport in Ireland had been “wiped out” and people needed hope it would return soon. It is believed Holohan said he would take that on board.

Sources have indicated that push back on the plan to extend the current restrictions is expected at tomorrow’s Cabinet meeting, with one minister stating that “it won’t get through without comment”.

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