‘Senior officials clash with Nphet’


Sir, – Reports that there have been clashes between representatives of Government and public health advisers is worrying (“As Holohan urges people to ‘work together’, senior officials clash with Nphet”, News, November 19th).

The Government must have the final say in decisions and may disregard advice given by the National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet). The wisdom of doing so is another matter.

It must be emphasised that the professional duty of the public health doctors, and other members of the advisory body, is to give their opinion clearly, and without fear, to the Government.

The Government and Nphet must then come together to convince us to go along with whatever policy is necessary. To do so, both Government and Nphet must be united. They must work together. They must have a good relationship.

It is also the duty of public health doctors, and others involved in giving advice to Government, to educate the people directly, and to bring them along. That means talking openly and publicly, directly and through the media.

Representatives of Government must be careful that they do not hinder that public education by Nphet.

Differences of opinion and even robust discussion between Government and Nphet must be expected, but must not intimidate members of Nphet into keeping quiet or, worse still, changing their advice into something more acceptable to Government or any other group in the country. – Yours, etc,



Co Cork.

Sir, – The recent media barrage is about society being rewarded by Nphet in allowing us to “save Christmas” if we behave during lockdown. Christmas will always be there, so maybe the focus should be on saving the economy and the mental health of the population. Let’s worry about the size of the turkey in 2021 – Yours, etc,




Sir, – We should spare a thought for our newly minted cohort of celebrity doctors who must be going through a torrid time with having to endure all of this positive news about the imminent arrival of not one but three efficacious vaccines. Their reign cannot end soon enough. – Yours, etc,



Co Wicklow.

Sir, – I drop my daughter to school in Dublin city centre every day by bus. There are signs on every window on the bus instructing passengers to “Keep window open”. Today, like all days, almost every window stayed resolutely shut.

Undoubtedly, the onset of winter has influenced bus passengers’ non-compliance. But surely the people on board realise that by increasing the bus’s airflow, everyone is less likely to be infected.

No one wants a longer lockdown than is absolutely necessary. But the more we all start adhering more closely to the existing simple advice, the better we’ll get through this pandemic. – Yours, etc,


Arbour Hill,

Dublin 7.

Sir, – We have reached a grim milestone in the Covid pandemic in Ireland – over 2,000 people dead, nearly 70,000 people infected. Accompanying these dreadful facts is a debate concerning reducing the level of social and commercial restrictions – people’s financial well-being is said to be at stake. Shuttered worksites are in public view. Those afflicted by the virus are beyond sight in hospitals, convalescent centres or tragically in final resting places. How do we as a society balance such a debate? – Yours, etc,



Co Waterford.

A chara, – This week Ireland passed a sad milestone – over 2,000 deaths from Covid 19 – and doctors are warning that the current lockdown seems to be losing its effectiveness, with the number of new infections stabilising at a high level.

However, it is not a case of all or nothing, and all is not bad news. Although this may be of little comfort to the afflicted and bereaved, Ireland is actually doing relatively better than much of the rest of the world.

Ireland’s ranking in the world for total infections is 77th. total deaths is 51st, cases per million population is 62nd. and deaths per million is 33rd. We have been gradually slipping down these awful league tables as the pandemic has taken greater hold elsewhere.

For those who feel the lockdown is never-ending, the development of safe and efficient vaccines offers the hope that 2021 could see the virus substantially defeated, and probably sooner rather than later.

Improved therapeutics have reduced the serious illness and death rates substantially, and our health service has shown an ability to adapt and meet the challenge head on.

What we need is one last push to reduce the incidence of the disease back down to the levels we achieved last June, so that we can then control the re-emergence of the disease by vaccinating the most exposed and vulnerable as soon as vaccines becomes available.

It would be a tragedy if we were to lose many more people just as the possibility of victory comes into sight. The biggest gift we can give each other this Christmas is a Covid-free celebration, socially distanced where necessary. – Yours, etc,



Co. Wicklow.

Sir, –The membership of Hiqa’s expert advisory group is made up exclusively of medical experts. The membership of Nphet is made up exclusively of more medical experts.

How many medical experts does it take to turn out the lights in businesses in Ireland?

Quite a lot, it seems. – Yours, etc,