NPHET wants Level 5 Covid-19 lockdown up to Christmas but Government not rushing in behind idea

Conor Ganly


Conor Ganly


Dr Tony Holohan's concern over clusters

Dr Tony Holohan, Chief Medical Officer, chairs the National Public Health Emergency Team

The National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET) has recommended that the entire country moves to Level 5 for a period of six weeks. 

The advice is reported to be contained in a letter sent to Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly. It is due to be discussed at a meeting between Government and Chief Medical Officer Dr Tony Holohan.

The letter is not expected to recommend the closure of schools. Teachers have previously said opening schools during a Level 5 would be 'incomprehensible'.

 Responding Taoiseach Micheál Martin said: "We take advice from NPHET very seriously. This will get good consideration.I don’t want to put a timeline on it. We want to have the situation well documented."

Tanaiste Leo Varadkar said he was "not surprised" at the NPHET's recommendation though he not yet seen the letter. He explained the next steps in before any decision is reached.

"What'll happen is the coordination group will meet, and after that government will consider NPHET's advice, taking into account the public health implications but also other implications too - around the impact on society, on the economy, on lives, livelihoods and mental health, and we'll make a decision then in due course but there's no plans for a Cabinet meeting today (Friday).

He said he a second lockdown "would be a lot more difficult than the first".

"The public would want to know and expect to know what the exit strategy is, how long would it go on for, and what the target is, what we're actually trying to achieve and at what point we'll be able to ease restrictions again," he said.

He said the Government would have to consider these matters "in the coming days."

 He warned it would not allow "a normal Christmas".

"As we know from the last lockdown when you get into it it can go on a lot longer than you think...and it can be quite slow to get out of it again.

"The view I would hear some times from retailers and restaurateurs is 'let’s lockdown now and we can reopen and have a normal Christmas' - but I would be loathe to make that promise," he said.