The former HSE Director General Tony O’Brien has said the leak of NPHET’s advice to Government on Sunday was a “bit of a misfire.”
Garda checkpoints will return to major roadways around the country from midnight tonight as the entire country moves to Level Three restrictions.
It comes after the Government rejected the National Public Health Emergency Team’s (NPHET) recommendation to immediately move to Level Five.
That advice was leaked to the public on Sunday night, taking many in Government completely by surprise.
On The Hard Shoulder this evening, Tony O'Brien said the leak was a “bit of a misfire” but insisted that health officials and politicians will continue to work hand in hand.
“Obviously it has been an unfortunate sequence of events but I don’t think there is unrepairable damage done to relationships,” he said.
“Everyone involved is well aware of the job they have. They are all professionals and while a few things may have been said and done in the last couple of days, I don’t think any long-term damage will be done to the focus that everybody has.
“NPHET are good people, Government are good people; they are all focused on wanting to do the best they can on coronavirus and there are going to be points of difference and emphasis. That is all we are really seeing.”
"Not at all surprised"
Mr O’Brien said he was “not all surprised” the Government rejected the Level Five recommendation.
“Given that most of the country, all but two counties are currently at Level Two, the relatively surprising recommendation was unlikely to be approved this week,” he said.
“I think probably there are parts of the country that could safely be at Level Two and others that should be at Level Five. Where we have landed is Level Three and I don’t think we should collectively get overly hung up on that.
“Ultimately, our Government has to do its thing and NPHET has to do its thing but each and every one of us in our own lives has to play our part.
“Every extra case of coronavirus is the result of one person inadvertently passing it to another. We all know now what we have to do.”
He said there is a “common theme” in what the Government and NPHET are saying, even if they disagree on what the next steps should be.
“The Taoiseach was really clear yesterday,” he said. “We are moving to Level three now in the hopes that we don’t have to move to Level Four or Five as was the Tánaiste and all the other members of Government.
“We all know, if this thing doesn’t come back closer to under control, where we are heading. We are heading back to something that feels like the March/April lockdown. It is not exactly the March/April lockdown but it is near as damn it.
“So, let’s all take this as a wake-up call.”
The former HSE chief said people need to get back to basics – even if they are bored of hearing it.
“It does mean consistent use of masks – mask not visors and the Government needs to do something about visors – social distancing, hygiene and cutting down our contacts,” he said.
“We all need to behave like we are infectious […] and take every precaution to avoid passing on the virus to other people.”
He said particularly concerned about the use of visors by staff in restaurants and cafés – warning that all they do is funnel air to guests seated below staff members as they take orders.
“I think it would be good if, in addition to everything else, the Government and NPHET could come out and very clearly say, ‘we now know that you can wear a visor if you want to in addition to wearing a mask.’” He said.
“But the primary preventative measure apart from hand hygiene and social distance is the correct use of a mask.”
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