Thomas Pringle TD

Thomas Pringle TD – Covid Leaks

First, in the Minister’s statement here outlining his discussions with the Chief Medical Officer on Sunday morning, he stated: “We discussed the current situation and the possibility of moving to level 4.” Looking at some of the stories that were released about the matter, the Irish Examiner published an article at 5.10 p.m. stating that the country was on the verge of moving to level 4. That was the only mention of level 4 at any stage during that, and that was at 5.10 p.m. on Sunday. In light of what the Minister stated here, that is interesting. Also, The Irish Times, which is not published on Sunday, stated that it was understood that NPHET met at noon and the meeting was ongoing. It reported that one Government source said the source thought they were in a very difficult situation. There seems to be something between the initial phone call that the Minister had from the Chief Medical Officer and before the end of the NPHET meeting on Sunday that seems to have been reported widely.

The Irish Examiner talks about level 4 and the Minister has talked about level 4 in his own statement. It seems the leaks came from somewhere within the Government. The Minister stated in response to a question earlier on that it was not him or any of his staff, but the Minister was not asked if he spoke to any journalists between the phone call from the Chief Medical Officer and 5 p.m., when the ongoing reports then started to appear, and particularly where they mention level 4 and that seems to be the only time that it has been mentioned.

I know the decision was difficult to make. I agree that people leak but only some people leak, not everybody does. That is important in this. It has become very important where the story leaked from and how it was leaked because of the reaction of the Minister’s colleagues and what they have said publicly about it. It was not my intention coming into the House this evening to discuss that but when I saw what was being said, I wanted to raise it. The leak came between 12 noon and 5 p.m. on Sunday so it is important to know who knew then what was actually discussed. It seems the only person who is not here who did know something about that then is the Taoiseach. It is interesting that we were supposed to have this discussion tomorrow with the Taoiseach present, but now we are not and he is not here tonight. Maybe there is something to that.

Therefore the leaks seem to have come from within Government. That is what I was trying to get to the bottom of.

The Minister said the Government would like to see more detailed options for the end of the four week period at level 5. I believe that we should have gone to level 5 and things look like we will go to level 5 in the next week or so anyway, with schools closing early for Hallowe’en. Maybe that will not happen. I want to tease out what the Minister said. What are the detailed options on carrying on as we are? I was at a meeting last week when very prominent medical people outlined what happens in Africa and so on with virus outbreaks etc. where peaks and troughs are ongoing. They said this pandemic would be ongoing for at least two to three years. We are looking at another two or three years at least of this cycle of lockdowns and reopening. How is that good for our society or for the businesses that many Members have mentioned this evening? How can we sustain things into the future like that? Maybe NPHET has modelled it differently and the Minister thinks that this will break the back of the pandemic now. If that is the case I would like to hear it. That is the crux of the matter. If we went for a full lockdown now and closed the whole thing down we could close the numbers down and then open everything back up by having proper testing and tackling the instances as they arise. We would have to do that on an all-island basis, that would be very important. Those are the options and that is what we should be talking about.