Government officials clash with Nphet over lockdown exit and Christmas plans

Government officials are reported to have clashed with the country’s Chief Medical Officer during a meeting yesterday, amid attempts to draw up an exit plan for the current lockdown.

Senior officials emphasised to Dr Tony Holohan that the Government – not the National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet) – would make decisions about lifting the lockdown and Christmas restrictions, three sources with knowledge of the meeting told the Irish Times.

Officials also complained to Dr Holohan that Nphet members were seeking to pressure the Government with a series of media appearances.

The officials included the secretary general of the Department of the Taoiseach Martin Fraser, who is the State’s most senior civil servant.

The evidence of division between Government and its public health advisors has emerged after Dr Holohan urged people to “work together” to suppress further spread of the virus.

‘Media strategy’

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One source said it was “made clear” to Nphet “that the Government will make the decision” on the reopening of the country, currently scheduled for December 1st.

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Another source confirmed that the Nphet “media strategy” was strongly criticised as some senior officials believed that its members are seeking to influence Government decisions through the media.

The State passed the milestone of 2,000 Covid-related deaths yesterday, as 12 further deaths and 379 new cases of the virus were confirmed.

Nphet is set to meet today to discuss the current trends and spread of Covid-19 across the country.

The Government will soon make major decisions on the lifting of the country’s current Level 5 lockdown and on how it intends to manage the pandemic throughout December and the Christmas period.

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