Society split on remedy as Holohan returns to helm

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Many people spent Monday scratching their heads trying to understand what had happened since last week to justify the National Public Health Emergency Team’s shock escalation of their concerns.

Last Thursday, acting chief medical officer Dr Ronan Glynn wrote to the Government noting a number of trends of concern but said “the current epidemiological data does not strongly support a move to Level 3 nationally at this time”.

Just three days later, chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan, back at the helm after a period of personal leave, recommended nationwide Level 5 measures for four weeks.

In tone and content, the two letters are similar, and many of the trends highlighted by Holohan are the same as those mentioned by Glynn the week before, with some deterioration in figures over the few days.

However, the second letter highlights other trends not mentioned in the first, and these may have clinched the argument for the public health officials meeting on Sunday. These include a “sustained increase” in cases among older people, seven new outbreaks in nursing homes last week and a rise in deaths, from four in August to 34 in September.

Everyone is bound to be haunted by the scale of deaths that occurred in nursing homes last spring. The spectre of a possible repeat of this fiasco must have loomed large when officials were considering what to do now.

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