Tony Holohan steps down from CMO duties to care for ill wife

The public face of the coronavirus crisis has stepped down from his role to be with family as his wife enters palliative care for cancer.
Tony Holohan steps down from CMO duties to care for ill wife
Tony Holohan is stepping aside from his role as chief medical officer to care for his terminally-ill wife.
Tony Holohan is stepping aside from his role as chief medical officer to care for his terminally-ill wife.

Additional reporting: Neil Michael, and Juno McEnroe

The public face of the coronavirus crisis has stepped down from his role to be with family, as his wife enters palliative care for cancer.

Chief medical officer Tony Holohan, who has led the country through these pandemic darkened days said his deputy, Ronan Glynn, will assume his top position.

“From today, I’ll be taking time out from all of my work commitments to be with my family,” Dr Holohan said   after the National Public Health Emergency Team’s press briefing yesterday.

“My wife Emer was diagnosed with multiple myeloma, a form of blood cancer, in 2012.

“She’s had a number of difficult years with her disease and was admitted for palliative care last Saturday. And I now want to give my energy, attention and all of my time to Emer and to our two teenage children, Clodagh and Ronan.”

Dr Holohan said that he had spoken to both the Taoiseach and the Minster for Health who had "kindly offered their support".

“As a husband and father and as a public health doctor I’m conscious that we’ve been through tough times together over the last number of months and many families across the country have been affected by the course of Covid-19, suffering pain and the loss of loved ones.

"I hope that we can all remain working together to continue to stay vigilant, to keep our social distance and take personal responsibility for our own health in the first instance, as well as looking after our family members and friends and those we care about most."

Dr Holohan requested privacy for him and his family.

Taoiseach Micheál Martin thanked Dr Holohan from the people of Ireland for helping to guide the country through the pandemic.

"His work, experience and briefings helped people to understand the gravity of the situation facing us, while his calmness reassured us that if we followed the guidelines and advice we would overcome these great challenges together.

“Every home in Ireland has come to know Dr Tony Holohan. His leadership during the pandemic has given us all confidence that the decisions being made are based on solid public health advice. As a country we owe him and his family a great debt of gratitude”.

Under Dr Holohan's stewardship, the potentially deadly virus was quickly suppressed, but he warned that it is still an unknown and active threat.

And health chiefs have expressed concern at the rising number of positive Covid-19 tests related to international travel as the Government prepares to allow people to once again enter the country without having to go into isolation.

Last week, 19 cases of the virus were travellers or people who had come into contact with someone who had travelled. Mr Holohan also revealed a further five deaths and 15 new cases of the virus.

Dr Holohan said "We are still concerned and cautious about the risk that is associated with travel outside this country which is why we continue to emphasise the risks associated with non-essential travel and advise people to avoid it."

He said NPHET is continuing to work with the Government on the green list of countries people can travel to and from without the need to quarantine.

But he said the imported cases, those associated with travel "shows that a small number of cases can quickly lead to additional spread and a larger number of cases here". Mr Holohan said that as the country now manages to improve the transmission rate such a spread could once again see the country "running into difficulty".

Tánaiste Leo Varadkar has said there is still a plan in place to publish a ‘green list’ of countries people can travel to and from without the need to quarantine.

But although that list might be published on July 9, he says that will not necessarily mean people will be able to travel from that date.

Instead, he said the new government needs more time to make its mind up about what it is going to allow.

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