Some passengers in Cork moved faster than the Government in adapting to the Covid-19 pandemic, wearing masks on public transport before it became mandatory to do so yesterday.
Courtney Thompson and Aaron Gilmour said that they have worn masks on every bus trip since last week.
“The mask makes you feel safer,” Courtney said. “It’s way better. And the bus can take more people if we’re all wearing masks."
The pair, who were boarding the bus to Killarney for a staycation instead of the flight they had booked for a holiday in Portugal, had already missed two buses from Bandon that morning because "they fill up so quickly” due to reduced capacity on board.
After each bus cleared out, a cleaning team of two jumped on, disinfecting hand rails, windows and all surfaces.
Those who travel without a face covering now risk fines of up to €2,500 and/or six months in prison although children and people with certain conditions are exempt.
Eric Hynes, who was travelling back to Youghal, said that although most people now wear face masks queuing for public transport, many remove them once they’re on board.
“I’m all for wearing masks,” he said. “It’s discouraging to see people taking them off straight away when they get on board. If we need to keep the [Covid-19] infection numbers down we may need someone on board checking that people leave the masks on.
“Some people still aren’t buying into the benefit of wearing them.”
Bus driver Jerry Connolly was returning from a round trip to Clonmel on which he said the vast majority complied with the new law.
“99.9% wore masks today. But I don’t open my mouth if they don’t, you’re only drawing trouble.
"My job is to drive a bus, not to enforce the Government’s new legislation.”
But fellow bus driver Martin Simmons said that he will not let anyone on board his bus without a mask. On the 245 bus to Fermoy that morning, everyone wore a mask, he said.
“Hopefully I won’t have to stop people getting on. As the weeks go on, people will get more used to it and more people will wear them."
Nancy Reynolds was getting a bus to Clonmel after arriving in Cork airport from Carcassone, France that morning.
Wearing masks on public transport in France was already mandatory so Nancy said that she "was used to it".
“I think you should have to wear masks on public transport, it doesn’t look like it [the virus] is going anywhere soon," she said.
“Wearing a mask was not optional in the airport. It was a bit eerie, there were not a lot of people around but it felt safe enough, I didn’t feel that I was in danger or catching the virus.”
Originally from the UK, Nancy was studying in Montpellier when the pandemic struck but she is now hoping to move to Ireland.
“I’m thinking of moving here. I like it here, the people are welcoming, it's nice."
Nancy plans to quarantine for two weeks at her friend’s house in Clonmel before getting out to explore the country, but she’s used to “staying indoors” after living through the pandemic in France.
At Kent railway station in Cork, compliance with the new law on face coverings was also high.
Gerard Corkery, who has worked with Iarnród Éireann for 39 years, said that “99% of people are compliant."
“There are clear signs up telling people to wear masks although sometimes you have to point them out to them. I remind people that wearing a mask is for their own good.”
Nicholas O’Donnell, a freelance photographer usually based in Bray, has been at his family home in Bantry since lockdown. He travelled from his partner Niamh Power's home in Midelton for their first meal out together since the pandemic struck.
“A lot of people are still not wearing masks here," Nicholas said. "In Dublin, about 80% of people wear masks on the Luas and about 90% on the bus. Rules are rules.
“Everyone should be doing it,” said Niamh. “I try to wear mine as much as I can."
“Ireland’s doing well now, we just all need to keep it going.” Nicholas said.
Kyle Cooney was travelling to Dublin for the day with his friend Finbarr Thompson.
“I think more people should be wearing them, especially on buses.”
Finbarr Thompson agreed. “You get used to them. They’re grand really. And it’s 100 times better to wear them and be protected. You feel safer.
“We’re going to Dublin for the day to get out of Cork while we can. I’d say we will go back to lockdown once everyone’s been out in the pubs again.”