Role of Nphet to be examined in 'new era' of Covid pandemic, Taoiseach says

ireland
Role Of Nphet To Be Examined In 'New Era' Of Covid Pandemic, Taoiseach Says Role Of Nphet To Be Examined In 'New Era' Of Covid Pandemic, Taoiseach Says
Micheál Martin said the Government is looking at how best to 'transition in to normalcy in terms of how Government works'. Photo: PA Images.
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Olivia Kelleher

The role of the National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet) will be examined as the Covid-19 pandemic enters a “new era” in Ireland, the Taoiseach said on Saturday.

Amid reports that Nphet may disband next month, Micheál Martin said that public health advice “will always be central to the Government approach to Covid-19” but that it is looking at how best to “transition into normalcy in terms of how Government works.”

“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,” he 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.”

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Mr Martin said the chief medical officer, currently Dr Tony Holohan, is “a key officer within the Department of Health and leads the public health campaign and public health advice and that will continue.”

Transition from emergency

On a visit to the Royal Cork Yacht Club (RCYC) 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.

“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,” he said.

“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.”

Mr Martin said Ireland is heading into a “a new era” of managing Covid-19, with the disease having had many “twists and turns” which could yet again come into play.

He added that the Government remained concerned about the impact of the Delta variant.

Electric Picnic

Meanwhile, the Taoiseach also said that the sporting sector is not being favoured over live entertainment in terms of the reopening of society.

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He said the key issue with music festival Electric Picnic was that it did not get planning permission.

“That was the key issue there. 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,” he said.

Mr Martin said the Government wants to reopen society safely.

We want people to play music again. Of course we do. We want people to go to theatre again in good numbers

“Our objective is to reopen. We want people to play music again. Of course we do. 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.”

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Mr Martin noted there is a difference between an outdoor concert versus two or three day festivals, which have more challenges in terms of preventing the transmission of Covid-19.

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

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

On 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.

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