Clear and consistent messaging on Covid-19 must be provided by the Government to replace the work done by the National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet), a leading medic has said.
Amid reports that Nphet is to be disbanded in October, Taoiseach Micheál Martin said Ireland will soon enter “a new era” in managing the virus.
Ray Walley, a member of the national Covid-19 GP liaison committee, said it is now time to make “appropriate” changes to Nphet, as the country aims to move towards normality.
Dr Walley said an overhaul of Nphet represents "appropriate progress" as the country has hit its targets to vaccinate the vast majority of the population.
“We are transitioning from regulation on population-wide restrictions to a focus on personal judgement and responsibility," he said.
Dr Walley said he would expect some Nphet members, including Tony Holohan, Ronan Glynn, and Darina O’Flanagan, to continue to have a prominent role.
This winter, the Government and the HSE may have to deal with outbreaks of the Delta variant in schools and the return of other viruses including influenza, he said.
He also pointed to the still-high rates of Covid-19 in the North as a potential risk.
“Government has to be proactive," said Dr Walley. "We need to change away from being reactive, we need to be proactive all of the time and we need to be planning.”
However, he said it is only to be expected the 50-member Nphet meetings would not continue as the focus shifts to non-Covid care.
“We have a successful vaccine scheme which is heading towards 90% uptake, which is phenomenal.
"We have managed to set up processes to deal with acute and chronic issues in relation to Covid."
Meanwhile, the HSE has said an audit of remaining Janssen and AstraZeneca vaccines in the mass vaccination centres continues into a second week.
Pharmacists working in the centres have raised concerns that large amounts of unused vaccines are being thrown out, following advice that Pfizer and Moderna vaccines be offered as a first option.
“Our work to review all existing stock levels and status of AstraZeneca and Janssen vaccine supplies is in the final stages of completion, and we'll be validating and finalising the data early next week,” said a HSE spokeswoman on Sunday.
The Department of Health yesterday confirmed a further 1,706 new cases of Covid-19. There were 347 patients in hospital with the virus, including 60 in ICU.
Up to Saturday, HSE data shows University Hospital Limerick was the worst-affected Munster hospital with 14 Covid patients, followed by University Hospital Kerry with 13 and Cork University Hospital with 10.
Hospitals had 350 open general beds and 31 adult beds in ICUs.