Stephen McNeice
Stephen McNeice

06.41 8 Oct 2020


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Opposition parties have called on Health Minister Stephen Donnelly to give a 'full explanation' about how he dealt with NPHET's concerns about the rising coronavirus rates over the weekend.

Public health officials' recommendation on Sunday night that the entire country move to level five has been described by a number of ministers - including Tánaiste Leo Varadkar - as a surprise.

However, the Chief Medical Officer yesterday said he spoke to Minister Donnelly both before and after NPHET met on Sunday.

Dr Tony Holohan said: "I spoke to him after the meeting, and I spoke to him before the meeting.

"There's nothing unusual - that's always what happens... you speak to a minister both before and after the meeting."

Minister Donnelly has said he informed the Taoiseach on Saturday that NPHET would meet the following day over the concerning case numbers.

He's also said to have communicated with the Taoiseach after both of Sunday's conversations with the CMO.

The minister is said to have been first informed about the level five recommendation on Sunday evening.

However, opposition parties have called on Minister Donnelly to give a full statement in the Dáil about the timeline.

'Full statement'

Sinn Féin's health spokesperson claimed that the Health Minister "allowed the impression to be formed that NPHET went on a solo run".

Social Democrats co-leader Róisín Shortall said: “I am calling on the Minister for Health, Stephen Donnelly TD, to make a full statement of what he was told on Sunday morning and evening and what he did with that information.

“The country was distracted by an unseemly row between the Government and NPHET at precisely the moment when all attention should."

Labour leader Alan Kelly reiterated the calls for a Dáil statement from the minister, saying Minister Donnelly "must clear up this latest controversy".

The Government ultimately rejected the level five recommendation, opting to move the entire country to level three restrictions instead.

However, health officials last night reiterate their grave concerns over the 'exponential growth' of the virus in the Republic recently.

Mr Varadkar earlier this week criticised NPHET over their level five recommendation - claiming it 'hadn't been thought through'.

Dr Holohan yesterday insisted he was “absolutely satisfied” that the air had been cleared with the Tánaiste after they spoke by phone earlier this week.

The Chief Medical Officer was also heavily critical of whoever leaked the NPHET advice to the media before it could be properly considered by Government.

NPHET meets again to further consider the coronavirus situation in the country.

Main image: File photo of Stephen Donnelly. Picture by: Sasko Lazarov / RollingNews.ie

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