Ministers called on to outline when they knew of Delta threat and vaccine pass idea

Nphet presented projections of potential impact of Delta variant on Monday

The day before Nphet presented its modelling, Eamon Ryan said there was no talk of limiting indoor dining to vaccinated people. File photograph

The day before Nphet presented its modelling, Eamon Ryan said there was no talk of limiting indoor dining to vaccinated people. File photograph

 

Senior Government figures have come under pressure to outline what they knew about the threat of the Delta variant and the National Public Health Emergency Team’s (Nphet) advice that indoor hospitality should only be for fully vaccinated people prior to a key meeting on Monday night.

That evening Nphet presented Ministers with stark projections of the potential impact of the highly transmissible variant in terms of hospitalisations and deaths.

It also recommended that a vaccine pass system be put in place before indoor service in restaurants and pubs could resume.

The Government agreed on Tuesday morning to postpone the reopening planned for July 5th and draw up plans for a vaccine pass system.

Green Party leader Eamon Ryan said on Wednesday that he had “some intimation” on Sunday that such a system may be recommended.

And Taoiseach Micheál Martin came under pressure in the Dáil to say when Chief Medical Officer Dr Tony Holohan raised his concerns over the Delta variant with the Government.

Ministers were shocked by the Nphet projections showing almost 700,000 cases of Covid-19 and more than 2,000 deaths in the most pessimistic scenario outlined by the advisory group.

The Irish Times understands that a small number of senior Government politicians were informed over the weekend that Nphet was examining a new vaccination plan for restaurants and pubs.

However, it’s unclear which Ministers knew and Government spokesmen did not respond to a query on the m.

‘Some intimations’

On Sunday Mr Ryan told RTÉ Radio that there was no talk of limiting indoor dining and drinking to people who are fully vaccinated.

He said this is because: “all along I think there’s a variety of problems with that but the main problem is how can you tell? Like literally having in every pub or in every restaurant starting to show evidence and so on.”

He also said there’s been huge public support for the vaccination programme and “If we start making it a condition for everyday life I think we could lose some of the public support so I don’t think that makes sense.”

Mr Ryan was asked on RTÉ Radio’s Today with Claire Byrne on Wednesday what happened after he made those remarks.

He said that there were “some intimations” about vaccine passes but not the Nphet modelling analysis which was presented to ministers on Monday night.

In the Dáil Social Democrats co-leader Róisín Shortall put it to Mr Martin that Dr Holohan had said on June 21st that the Delta variant accounted for 20 per cent of cases and said he said the figures showed: “a concerning increase in transmission of the Delta variant”.

She asked the Taoiseach if Mr Holohan had raised concerns about the proposed reopening of hospitality with anyone in Government at that point.

She said she was raising questions for the “many thousands of people whose livelihoods depend on this very important sector, many of whom have not been able to open their doors or return to work in 16 months.”

Mr Martin didn’t specify instances when the CMO warned the Government about Delta but said it has been “a cloud on the horizon for quite some time.”

He said that when the original target of reopening indoor hospitality was decided on the Government was told there was a “low to medium-risk scenario” but that “Delta hadn’t quite penetrated here at that stage”.

Mr Martin insisted that given the Nphet modelling presented to Government on Monday a pause and delay in reopening hospitality is the “correct decision”.

The Taoiseach said “I think the significant shock was in the modelling in terms of the very high numbers that Nphet had indicated could be involved here in terms of the Delta variant.”