The general secretary of the National Bus and Railworkers Union (NBRU), Dermot O’Leary has said that he has to acknowledge that the outgoing Minister for Transport Shane Ross “is doing the right thing” by making face masks compulsory on public transport.
Mr O’Leary told Newstalk Breakfast that he had made many complaints about Mr Ross over the years, but in this case he was optimistic that the Minister was doing something positive.
However, Mr O’Leary expressed concern that while the wearing of face masks was going to be compulsory, there was still an issue with capacity.
Next Monday people will be returning to work, it’s going to be difficult, social distancing is going to present many challenges.
Mr O’Leary also said that it was going to be difficult to police the capacity issue and face masks, this was not a job that a bus driver or frontline staff on the rail network should have to deal with, he added.
“The last thing we want is conflict between drivers and passengers or between passengers.”
There is a role for the gardaí, the transport companies and the National Transport Authority, he said.
Immunologist Kingston Mills told the same programme that face masks should also be mandatory in supermarkets. He disputed figures of 41 per cent compliance, saying that he thought it was more likely only five per cent.
Ireland should learn from other countries that had successfully dealt with the issue of transport, he said.
He said that social distancing rules on public transport has meant they are down to very low levels of passenger numbers.
“We’re talking about 12 people on the double-decker bus and that kind of equivalent reductions in rail,” he told RTE Morning Ireland.
“We were going to get to a situation in the next few weeks where we’re close to bursting and where there’s not enough capacity on public transport so we have to sort out problems, one way or the other.
“We’ve increased the capacity that can be used on public transport to 50%, which will mean that a lot more people can get on the buses and on the trains, but to counter to that, to protect people’s health, we’ve made it mandatory to wear face masks.
“In other words, when are you getting onto public transport you will from now on, or the period this is introduced in the next few weeks or days, have to wear a face mask and that is something which I hope will be welcome.”
People have expressed the view that it's a double-edged sword and in some cases wearing face masks, if they're not used properly, is actually counterproductive
He said while there is no confirmed date when the measure will be introduced, it will be “in the next few weeks”.
Mr Ross said there is no intention to force people to wear face masks if it is damaging to their health.
He added: “One of the absolutely essential parts of the introduction of these is how they should be used, where they should be purchased, how long they should be used and how they should be worn.
“This is very, very important.
“People have expressed the view that it’s a double-edged sword and in some cases wearing face masks, if they’re not used properly, is actually counterproductive, so there’s going to be a serious communications campaign.”
This would remove the requirement for people arriving in Ireland to quarantine for two weeks.
Mr Ross added: “We haven’t nominated any countries yet, there are reports going out that we have, there won’t be any countries nominated in the next few days.”
On Wednesday another six people with Covid-19 died in Ireland, the National Public Health Emergency Team reported.
As of midnight Tuesday, the authorities had been notified of five more confirmed cases, making a total of 25,396.