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Taoiseach insists he has confidence in Health Minister

Micheal Martin said he did not know who leaked the Nphet advice to move to level 5 restrictions but it was not Stephen Donnelly.

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Taoiseach Micheal Martin (right) and the President of the European Council, Charles Michel, during a press conference at Farmleigh House, Dublin ( (Julien Behal/PA)

Taoiseach Micheal Martin (right) and the President of the European Council, Charles Michel, during a press conference at Farmleigh House, Dublin ( (Julien Behal/PA)

Taoiseach Micheal Martin (right) and the President of the European Council, Charles Michel, during a press conference at Farmleigh House, Dublin ( (Julien Behal/PA)

The Taoiseach has insisted he retains full confidence in the Health Minister.

Micheal Martin said he did not know who leaked the National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet) recommendation to move to level five restrictions, but that he was “certainly sure that Stephen Donnelly didn’t leak it”.

“I do, of course, have confidence in the Health Minister,” he said when asked during a press conference with the EU Council president Charles Michel in Dublin.

The Fianna Fail leader made the comments ahead of Mr Donnelly making a statement to the Dail later to clarify his communications with the chief medical officer.

It comes amid growing confusion over what the Government was told by Nphet last weekend, and how that advice was subsequently leaked.

It emerged that the chief medical officer (CMO) Dr Tony Holohan spoke to Mr Donnelly by phone three times on Saturday and Sunday, during which he raised concerns about the number of Covid-19 cases in Ireland.

But the Tanaiste and some Government ministers claim they were not made aware of the advice until Sunday evening.

Tanaiste Leo Varadkar said the recommendation from Nphet to move to Level five “hadn’t been thought through and there hadn’t been prior consultation”.

Mr Varadkar told the Dail on Thursday that nobody in Government had any indication, “not even an inkling”, that a Level five move was being considered until Sunday night.

“To make it clear, I was informed on Saturday, as was the Taoiseach and the Green Party, that a meeting of Nphet was called for Sunday,” he said.

Sinn Fein’s Pearse Doherty said that Mr Varadkar’s claim that Nphet’s advice came out of the blue was “not the case” and that the CMO did everything he could have done to keep the Government in the loop.

Green Party leader Eamon Ryan also said on Thursday that the Government was not made aware of Nphet’s advice to move to Level five until Sunday evening.

Dr Holohan said on Wednesday that he had shared his concerns and those of other Nphet members with Mr Donnelly.

“I wouldn’t pre-empt a conversation but I was very clear about the level of concern that I had and have, and if anything the level of concern I had then is less than the level of concern I have now,” Dr Holohan added.

Members of Nphet are meeting on Thursday to discuss the track of Covid-19 across the country.

A further 506 cases of Covid-19 and one further death linked to the virus were reported by Nphet on Thursday.

The latest figures from from the Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC) show that the national average rate of Covid-19 cases is 124.4 cases per 100,000 population.

Donegal remains the highest with 312.2 positive cases per 100,000 people.

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