Friday, November 27, 2020

Senior officials clash with Holohan at meeting on lifting lockdown

Senior officials clash with Holohan at meeting on lifting lockdown

After more than nine months and over 69,000 cases of the disease, the State passed the milestone of 2,000 Covid-related deaths yesterday, as Chief Medical Officer Tony Holohan urged people to “work together” to suppress further spread of the virus.

But there was further evidence of division between Government and its public health advisers. Senior officials are said to have clashed with Dr Holohan during a meeting yesterday as efforts to draw up a plan to exit the lockdown and manage the pandemic over the Christmas period continue in Government.

According to three sources with knowledge of the meeting, senior officials emphasised to Dr Holohan that the Government – not the National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet) – would make decisions about easing the lockdown and what restrictions would be in place over Christmas.

Officials, which included the secretary general of the Department of the Taoiseach Martin Fraser, the State’s most senior civil servant, also complained to Dr Holohan that Nphet members were seeking to pressure the Government with a series of media appearances.

One source said it was “made clear” to Nphet “that the Government will make the decision” on reopening, scheduled for December 1st. 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 Government is facing far-reaching decisions within the next week to 10 days on ending the lockdown, reopening commercial and social life and on how it manages the pandemic during December and the Christmas period.

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