Q&A: Everything you need to know about wearing a face mask

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has said people are not using face masks properly and the Government is going to have to step up an information campaign on how they should be worn.
Q&A: Everything you need to know about wearing a face mask
A pedestrian wearing a face mask in Cork city. Picture: Denis Minihane.
A pedestrian wearing a face mask in Cork city. Picture: Denis Minihane.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has said people are not using face masks properly and the Government is going to have to step up an information campaign on how they should be worn.

With face coverings likely to be a fixture for the public for the foreseeable future many are still unsure of what they should be doing to keep themselves and their families safe.

So when should people wear face masks?

The current advice is that face coverings should be worn on public transport while visiting older people, and in spaces where it is difficult to social distance.

Why has the Government not made the wearing of face masks mandatory?

Mr Varadkar has said experts disagree on the issue but the best evidence is that face masks could be of benefit on public transport and in shops.

What is the view of virus expert, Dr Cillian De Gascun, on wearing face masks?

The director of the National Virus Reference Laboratory believes they should be worn when physical distancing cannot be maintained.

Should face masks be worn all the time when outside?

Dr De Gascun, told RTÉ radio face coverings do not need to be worn in the open air.

Will a scarf do when out shopping or on public transport?

According to Dr De Gascun, people must wash the scarf every time after they use it to shield their faces.

A woman wearing a face mask on Patrick Street, Cork. Picture: Dan Linehan
A woman wearing a face mask on Patrick Street, Cork. Picture: Dan Linehan

What else does he advise?

People should put on a mask when entering shops or boarding public transport.

Should people be wearing medical-grade masks?

Dr De Gascun says that if there is a very high risk - see below - to health people such masks are better than a face covering.

What is the advice from the World Health Organisation on wearing face masks?

The WHO says face masks should be used as part of a comprehensive strategy of measures to suppress transmission and save lives.

Has the WHO's advice changed recently?

Yes, the WHO wants people aged 60 or over and those with underlying health conditions to wear medical-grade masks when physical distancing cannot be maintained.

Non-medical fabric masks are being used by many people in public areas already. What does the WHO think of that?

The WHO says there is limited evidence on their effectiveness and does not recommend their widespread use among the public for the control of Covid-19.

Dr Cillian De Gascun, Director of the National Virus Reference Laboratory. Picture: Colin Keegan, Collins Dublin
Dr Cillian De Gascun, Director of the National Virus Reference Laboratory. Picture: Colin Keegan, Collins Dublin

What does the WHO advise on the use of fabric masks?

It wants people to wear masks on public transport, in shops or in other confined or crowded environment.

What about the WHO's guidance that people over 60 should wear a medical-grade face mask?

Dr De Gascun said the National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET) will review the advice when it meets on Thursday.

What is the WHO's advice for decision-makers if they decide people should wear face masks in public?

It says the purpose of wearing a mask should be explained as well as where, when, how and what type of mask should be worn.

Anything else?

It should be explained what wearing a mask may and may not achieve and that it is part of a package of measures including hand hygiene and physical distancing.

What does the European Centre for Disease Control think of face masks?

It is worried that people will not use them properly and may increase the risk of infection.

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