Dr Tony Holohan, Chief Medical Officer, Department of Health

This afternoon.

An open letter from Brendan Cody…

Thank you for your informative frequent press briefings reporting death-tolls and keeping the nation appraised of NPHET’s assessment of the pandemic situation. There are some questions I have however that do not seem to be asked by the media representatives admitted to those briefings. Perhaps you would be as informative in answering these.

Covid testing capacity was increased since the first lockdown, in the run up to this Winter. Capacity has grown approximately twice as much in non-hospital (private) labs than in hospital labs. The stated estimated cost of the testing last year was €450 million euro.

What commercial labs have been engaged to do this? What was the process for selecting those labs? What was the tender process (and was it similar to that required for other public service contracts)? What measures were taken to prevent conflict of interest with any member of NPHET during this process?

I note in your recent briefing that the current test capacity level is to be maintained, but will be redirected to double-testing of all close contacts. Does that imply that some previously reported cases may not have been accurately diagnosed Covid cases?

Does this relate to problems with using PCR testing for asymptomatic diagnosis? Under the new confirmatory testing protocol, how many previously reported cases would no longer now be considered positive Covid cases? Will the historic total case figure be adjusted to reflect this?

Have NPHET or the HSE mandated to test providers a requirement for the cycle threshold to be used in PCR tests? If so, what CT is used? Has it remained constant over the last year? If not, what CT was used/requested at the various stages during the pandemic?

Was any consideration given at any stage to apportioning instead some of the (borrowed) public money allocated for testing into the provision and staffing of critical care capacity in hospitals for this past winter season surge (that would perhaps remain available as on-going hospital care capacity for this and subsequent years)?

Of the deaths with Covid reported these last weeks, how many were contracted in a hospital environment? How many were contracted in a care home or institutional environment? Of the latter, how many of those had received their initial vaccination?

What practice will the HSE employ to monitor phase 4 trial follow-up on each vaccination, and how frequently will the public be briefed on those figures, and what informative metrics (other than the current total vaccinations) will be given about them?

I’m sure you or one of the 30 members of NPHET keep appraised of all recent Covid research, to keep best informed of any possible intervention or measures that can be made to achieve the oft-stated goal of limiting deaths and reducing pressure on the health services. NPHET are therefore aware, I’m also sure, of the growing research last year surrounding the link between Vitamin D3 deficiency and poor Covid outcomes.

NPHET, of course, were aware of the results of the Cordoba clinical trial, and very successful outcomes from the widespread distribution of D3 to care home residents and the elderly last November in Andalucia province in Spain, reducing hospitalisations and deaths there by over a half.

Given that the outcomes of that initiative dramatically met your stated goal of reducing deaths and hospital admissions of Covid cases, why was such an initiative not carried out in Ireland, especially when there were no vaccines yet available to the elderly and care home residents? Could the modelling expertise of NPHET be utilised to calculate how many unnecessary deaths occurred in Ireland as a result of not following the same initiative?

With it now becoming evident that mutations of the virus this year are likely to render existing vaccines less effective, will NPHET now be recommending a similar campaign of D3 supplementation for the elderly next winter, to prevent deaths? Will the HSE be adding to their media advertising campaigns this year information about the importance of vitamin D3 supplements against coronaviruses (a curious omission from last year’s winter health care booklet distributed to every household)?

Or will the Department of Health be waiting to see instead if pharmaceutical companies provide updated vaccines, and would it therefore be recommending another round of expensive vaccines next year, to achieve a similar limited-timeframe population-wide immunity again?

How many deaths have been prevented by the “lockdown” leveled restrictions throughout 2020? Can you provide statistical evidence for such a figure? (What Infection Fatality Rate, broken down across age groups, are you now assuming?) How many premature deaths were caused by those restrictions in 2020, and will continue to be caused by restrictions going forward? How many other non-Covid “long” health and mental conditions were initiated by the protracted lockdown restrictions?

Are NPHET gathering statistics for (or perhaps modelling) that also? When one of those sets of figures outweighs the other, I presume NPHET will be recommending an immediate switch in strategy, to best reflect and support the needs of public health?

When (and how) are blanket restrictions and the financially, socially, medically, educationally, and psychologically expensive measures to be phased out? What metrics will NPHET be using to determine when the temporary emergency coronavirus-related civil restrictions conceived last March will be removed (and the concomitant penal health legislation expired)? What level of asymptomatic positive test cases, hospital admissions with, or deaths from coronavirus will be sufficiently low for that to happen? Zero?

If economic contraction, revenue intake reduction, and increased national debt interest bills in future years necessitate a reduction in available budget for healthcare, what level of budgetary contraction could the HSE/Department of Health withstand and still be able to staff NPHET and continue the excellent public health advice that has kept us all so safe from calamity this last year?

Perhaps you would consider these questions and factor the answers into your regular press briefings. I and the nation would be very eager to know those urgent answers, to decide where we go from here.

Yours sincerely,

Brendan Cody


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38 thoughts on “Dear Tony

  1. Smith

    Brendan, you lost me at “Thank you for your informative frequent press briefings reporting death-tolls and keeping the nation appraised of NPHET’s assessment of the pandemic situation.”

    1. goldenbrown

      apparently he’s a Writer of social and technological commentary and fiction

      on his blog called Viral Thinking, by Brendan Cody

    1. rominick

      Why, does it matter who he is?
      He’s entitled to ask any questions.
      Never mind, keep calm and plug into RTE.

        1. Micko

          Hey Paul,

          Get outta here with your “facts” and “official Government documents” pal.

          Don’t you know around here we’re only interested in protecting old people if it actually protects me or makes me feel superior to you.

          Old People dying from Covid – Not cool man

          Old people dying from a vaccine – Fine and dandy bro

          1. Micko

            I don’t have a son Shane.

            I think you might be referring to my friends son?

            That’s the chap who’s having issues with his son who’s getting into the Qanon stuff.

          2. Daisy Chainsaw

            But did they die from the vaccine, with the vaccine, or of the vaccine.

            Apparently, there’s a difference.

        2. Daisy Chainsaw

          Charger trumpeting that over 14 million have recieved the vaccine in the UK gives a survival rate of 99.9999%

          It’s regrettable that the vaccine is related to any deaths, but if several thousand Irish people dying of Covid is no big deal to anti maskers, pro diseasers, anti vaxx etc then it’s hypocritical to suddenly care about old people dying due to the covid vaccine.

          1. Micko

            If you think that “pro-disease” means I think my child’s well-being and development comes before octogenarians dying in nursing homes.

            Then yes, I am pro-disease. (To you)

  2. Charger Salmons

    Why is he an utter dose ?
    At least he’s asking specific questions which is something most of the mainstream media stenographers are not doing.
    I’d like to know why the makers of Astrazeneca, the WHO, the EMA and the UK’s MHRA all advocate use of the vaccine in the over-65s but NPHET doesn’t.
    And I’d like Holohan to explain that on live television while being robustly questioned by a journalist.
    Which he wont do.
    Arriving passengers at Dublin airport get a tougher grilling from the hacks.

    1. Pat

      In fairness Charger the Stenographers over in your part of the world aren’t exactly grilling Boris And the tories over their awful mishandling of the pandemic so far. All you hear is rollout rollout rollout as if that was some kind of victory. Gambling early on Astrazenica has paid off for Britain so far luckily – and thank God given the awful death toll over there so far due to the Tory’s utter mishandling of the pandemic so far.

      But you never hear Boris grilled over that at these pressers. Just rollout rollout rollout

      1. Charger Salmons

        Well Pat I admit the remote Zoom video questions don’t help but at least Boris and his crew have got up there nearly every day on live TV and delivered news when it has been terrible as well as good.
        Boris could have swerved the 100,000 death toll but he didn’t.
        It’s probably why even now he remains ahead of Labour and its leader in both party and personal polls.
        The fact that we don’t see the same on Irish television is very revealing.
        Where is this generation’s Vincent Browne up on his feet and haranguing the wasters and spoofers at press conferences ?
        Matt Cooper ? I wouldn’t throw a glass of lousy German wine on him if he was on fire.
        Fintan O’Toole ? Conspicious by his absence now the going is getting tough for the EU.
        RTE ? Wastrels and weasels scared to bite the hand that feeds them.
        I hate the whole miserable, deceitful, dishonest lot of them.
        Ireland deserves better for the Licence Fee that pays their salaries.

  3. Tarfton Clax

    There are some questions there that would be good to have answered, whether by NEPHET or by Ministerial Rep, FOI or PQ.

  4. GiggidyGoo

    Good questions. The Media aren’t asking them – why?
    Just wondering why a few on here aren’t interested in the answers he’s looking for.

    1. Micko

      Media and other medical professionals aren’t asking them coz they’re scared of losing their job.

      It’s all good and well disagreeing with this stuff, but if you risk not being able to pay your mortgage over it.

      I can see why most would be reluctant to do it.

      My own GP thinks this is utter hysteria.

      1. Shane O'Quinn

        And yet, Micko, the true truth tellers you label ‘nutters’ when we try to warm you about the secret cabals plans for the world. The storm is coming, and it will come for controlled opposition such as yourself too.

        1. Micko

          Ah, I don’t believe in any of that secret cabal stuff man.

          I just think it was a massive overreaction, we all had the absolute poo scared out of us from Italy and now it’s

          a) stagnated through fear,
          b) there’s too much money being made from it,
          c) people are happier working from home and
          d) there’s too much social pressure to not to be seeing to agree with it all.

          It’s cancel culture at it’s worst – if you disagree with the lockdown you’re seen as not caring about anyone else and you’re now cancelled.

      2. Charger Salmons

        It’s because they’re known in Blighty as Full Pay Onanists ( dunno how else to frame it Admin).
        Sat at home for nearly a year on full salaries lecturing people who’ve lost their jobs and livelihoods about how to behave and how much bilge to suck up while they scan Travelzoo for a nice cruise later this year when the frightful business is past its peak.

    2. Joe

      Why are they not asking the questions? Because 99% of the questions are making false appeals to scientific and statistical evidence and are a re-hash of non-scientific balderdash, flimflam and nonsense.
      The 1% of questions asked, as already mentioned by a poster can best be answered via a FOI request

  5. Shane O'Quinn

    I’m glad Broadsheet is raising this issue again. There was a terrible and dangerous silence in January as PCR positive ‘deaths’ mounted. Ivor Cummins called it the low ground tsumami paradox.

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