New Covid-19 oversight group to filter advice from NPHET to Cabinet

Senior civil servant to chair group to advise on strategic economic and social policy

Covid-19 oversight group will be established. It will be chaired by Secretary to the Government Martin Fraser (above).

Covid-19 oversight group will be established. It will be chaired by Secretary to the Government Martin Fraser (above).

 

A new oversight committee chaired by the State’s most senior civil servant will act as a filter for recommendations made by the National Public Health Emergency Team to the Cabinet.

Until now, NPHET has advised the Government directly as to which measures should apply to give effect to public health advice on how to curb the spread of coronavirus.

But under the medium-term plan, a Covid-19 oversight group will be established. It will be chaired by Secretary General to the Government Martin Fraser, and will meet weekly, usually following the meeting of the expert body on public health. Its role will be to “provide advice to Government on the strategic economic and social policy responses to the management of the disease and to consider the NPHET advices”.

The plan also envisages that this group will oversee and direct implementation of policy responses.

Expertise

On Tuesday, Government sources said NPHET did not have any expertise in areas such as sports and it was better that recommendations in those areas be brought back within the political realm.

Along with Mr Fraser, membership of the group will comprise senior officials from the departments of health, finance, public expenditure and other relevant Government departments, as well as acting Chief Medical Officer Ronan Glynn, and chief executive of the Health Services Executive Paul Reid.

It comes as part of an overhaul of governance of how the State responds to the crisis. There was speculation earlier this month that NPHET would be disbanded but it will continue in its previous role and will also continue to give daily briefings on numbers and trends.

“We are moving from a shorter-term emergency response approach to a medium-term approach to managing risk and repairing the impact that Covid-19 has had on society and business over the past six months,” stated the plan.

The Cabinet committee on Covid-19 chaired by the Taoiseach will continue to assess the impacts of the potential spread of the virus and oversee the Government response.

This Government has also undertaken to fully review the plan at the end of March, 2021.