‘We made a few mistakes’ – Prof Nolan says Nphet failed to warn the government that a ‘meaningful Christmas’ could lead to a blast in Covid cases


The former head of the modeling group of the National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet) said they had not communicated well enough with the government in hindsight ahead of the ‘meaningful Christmas’ pandemic episode of 2020, during which Ireland had the highest incidence of Covid – 19 cases.

rof Philip Nolan, formerly of Nphet, said they had presented to Cabinet what they thought would happen if the country opened up with hospitality and home visits over Christmas 2020.

At the time, the government had promised the country a “meaningful Christmas” after enduring another round of tough restrictions.

Prof Nolan, who is now Head of Science Foundation Ireland, said today: ‘We made a couple of mistakes in presenting this slide. We had 200 cases a day and we were falling and we were going in and we were like, ‘Look, something could go wrong here,'” he said at a gathering at the University of Limerick.

“We said that in January you could handle 400 cases a day again, and that ‘400 cases a day’ stuck in the mind of the listener as a comforting number, as opposed to ‘you’re massively accelerating through 400’.”

He said they had warned the government that opening up hospitality and household visits over Christmas would put the country “absolutely in the wrong place”.

The government had taken a “Christmas-saving” step and reopened pubs, although this was short-lived.

Prof Nolan, speaking today at the University of Limerick before a panel of experts looking at the role of data and other issues in Ireland’s response to the pandemic, said:

“What did that teach us? It taught us that we did not communicate the results of these models as well as was necessary to properly inform.

“There’s actually a whole science about that that we need to think about again.

“We need to be better at communicating the range of possibilities and uncertainties and so on.

“Not only that, once this was over we started vaccinating people.”

He added: “What came up? Alpha (variant) only.”

At the event, Dr. Catherine Motherway, Intensive Care Advisor at University Hospital Limerick, that one of the most concerning aspects in the first few months of the pandemic has been the near disappearance of non-Covid-19 patients, including those suffering from heart attacks and strokes.

A clearer picture of the impact has yet to emerge, she added.

Other speakers warned of the need to have accurate data amid fears of excess cancer deaths due to fewer screenings and presentations. ‘We made a few mistakes’ – Prof Nolan says Nphet failed to warn the government that a ‘meaningful Christmas’ could lead to a blast in Covid cases

Fry Electronics Team

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