Public urged to wear face masks but warned they are not 'magic shields'

Mr Varadkar said the outgoing government had considered banning people in places and on transport without masks but that some groups of people could not use face coverings.
Public urged to wear face masks but warned they are not 'magic shields'

Leo Varadkar wearing face masks during a press brieifng to promote the wearing of masks on public transport. Picture: Gareth Chaney/Collins
Leo Varadkar wearing face masks during a press brieifng to promote the wearing of masks on public transport. Picture: Gareth Chaney/Collins

The public have been

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With an estimated one in four only wearing masks or face coverings, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Health Minister Simon Harris

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Mr Varadkar said the outgoing government had considered banning people in places and on transport without masks but that some groups of people could not use face coverings.

He also warned masks were not "magic shields" and people should follow strict hygiene practices already set out to prevent the spread of the virus.

Nonetheless, speaking in Dublin City centre, he asked people to use face coverings where possible:

“I'm encouraging people to use masks in situations where social distancing is difficult. So that's for example, on public transport, in a crowded indoor place like a supermarket or when you're visiting the home of somebody who's cocooning, or if they're visiting you.

It's seen as an additional hygiene measure that can help to reduce the spread of the infection.

The appeal comes ahead of a nationwide ad campaign about when and how to use masks to reduce infections spreading and also amid confusion over the government policy on the issue.

Health authorities initially did not encourage the use of masks, despite suggestions they can reduce the spread of droplets. The uptake is so far low and transport officials have seen only a 10% usage on services so far while one in four generally wear them.

Asked whether wearing coverings should be mandatory, as exists in other EU states, Mr Varadkar and his Health Minister Simon Harris did not rule out this happening at a later stage. But they will not be mandatory now.

Mr Harris said “nobody should need a law” and that “behavioural change” was more important.

Mr Varadkar added: “I have to say I do see people using them more and more so I think the message is coming across, it is getting out there that you showed use a mask, where it's difficult to socially distance for example, on public transport or in a busy shop.

“We have given consideration to make it mandatory. We don't rule that out.

“But there are real difficulties. Some people have phobias, some people have breathing difficulties, there's lots of different reasons as to why you wouldn't make it mandatory.”

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