The Minister for Health and HSE will each address the Oireachtas Covid Committee this week, but the Acting Chief Medical Officer says that his non-attendance is "a matter for the Department of Health".
Both the Health Service Executive CEO Paul Reid and Stephen Donnelly will be speaking to the committee on the issue of Ireland's testing and contact tracing capabilities.
However, asked why NPHET has postponed its appearance at the committtee for a second week in a row, Dr Ronan Glynn said that he "would not get into the specifics" and said it was "a matter for the Department of Health".
Committee Chairman Michael McNamara TD said:
“It is imperative that the Committee hears from the HSE before producing its final report.
“The latest rise in detected cases of Covid-19 is happening as the Winter flu season looms; with the seasonal pressure it places on hospitals and emergency departments. Members want to get answers from the HSE on its current test and trace system capacity and the current turnaround times in operation.
“An efficient test and trace system, with a quick turnaround time, has been highlighted by national and international experts as essential in the battle to fight the spread of Covid-19. The Committee recommended in its Interim Report on Testing and Tracing, that the HSE’s target turnaround time for end-to-end testing should be at most one day.”
Mr McNamara said that the committee had hoped to hear from Dr Glynn but the invitation had not been taken up.
“The Committee also hoped to hear for the acting CMO and NPHET arising from the “Resilience and Recovery 2020-2021: Plan for Living with COVID-19” 5-level plan, in particular around the conspicuous lack of any published scientific criteria setting out when a county is required to be raised to a higher level of restrictions and, similarly, the criteria to be achieved for a county to be reduced to a lower level with less restrictions on the lives and livelihoods of it people. Therefore, questions arise on the scientific basis upon which NPHET makes it recommendations to Government, which have invariably been followed to date.
"Nevertheless, for a second successive week - the last week on which the Committee is scheduled to have sessions - we have been informed that NPHET will not be attending to answer any questions."