The decision to bring forward Tuesday’s COVID restrictions announcement meant NPHET had no time to consider the vaccine rollout changes, the Health Minister has told Pat Kenny.
It has emerged that NPHET predictions of a huge COVID wave if indoor dining was allowed to go ahead did not account for new vaccine recommendations allow younger people to access AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson (J&J).
The models, one of which predicted a surge in cases dwarfing anything the country has seen up to now, led to Cabinet deciding to delay re-opening.
Here are the various scenarios NPHET presented the Government with for the spread of COVID over the next few months pic.twitter.com/uPgfxCaiXD
— Seán Defoe (@SeanDefoe) June 29, 2021
Cabinet sources have said the Taoiseach told Ministers on Tuesday that the modelling accounted for the vaccine changes; however, the Chief Medical Officer (CMO) Tony Holohan has confirmed that it did not.
On The Pat Kenny Show this morning, Health Minister Stephen Donnelly said ministers said the situation was made very clear to Cabinet before it made its decision.
He said NPHET had no opportunity to update its modelling.
"NIAC (the National Immunisation Advisory Committee) provided that advice to the CMO on Monday,” he said. “[The Chair of the NPHET Modelling Group] Professor Philip Nolan was having to do the modelling over the weekend.
“We asked NPHET to present to us several days early because the hospitality sector had very reasonably said, please don’t wait until Thursday; it is not enough time so if there is bad news - and there was a growing fear because of Delta that there could be bad news - they said please give us this information as early in the week as possible. So, that is what we did.”
He said he was surprised to hear Cabinet sources claiming they thought the advice had been accounted for.
“I was quite surprised to see there were anonymous sources at Cabinet who were expressing surprise at this,” he said.
“It was very clear that the modelling was being completed right up until Monday and that the NIAC advice came in on Monday so it wouldn’t have been possible for NPHET to incorporate that advice.
“Myself and the HSE are currently working through the implications of that advice and of course it will be updated.”
He said the advice could change if UK data confirms that the ongoing increase in cases does not mean a surge in hospitalisations and deaths.
“Scotland yesterday reported their highest daily cases because of this Delta variant since pandemic began,” he said.
“There is a question the entire scientific community are watching the UK for which is, how does that translate into hospitalisations and how does it translate into death.
“So, with more information coming in from the UK, as we learn more the models are regularly updated - and that will be the case with the NIAC advice as well.”
This morning, the Vintners Federation of Ireland (VFI) called for NPHET to immediately recalculate its modelling - and said each scenario put forward must be weighted by likelihood to show how credible they are.
Minister Donnelly said there are “wide confidence intervals” around the scenarios because the Delta variant is so new.
“It is not that NPHET is trying to be unhelpful, it is that NPHET is saying there is wide range of possible outcomes from this and we have to give them to you,” he said.
He said the Government was hoping for the best but has to plan for the worst.
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