Cabinet to sign off on laws to make mask-wearing mandatory in certain settings

Cabinet has also approved laws to abolish both overnight and day-case public in-patient charges for children under 16 years of age in all public hospitals
Cabinet to sign off on laws to make mask-wearing mandatory in certain settings

It is understood that no specific settings are mentioned, however, the legislation will allow for the reintroduction of masks if the virus continues to spread rapidly. Picture: Colin Keegan, Collins Dublin

The Cabinet is due to sign off on the drafting of legislation that would allow for the reintroduction of mandatory face masks in some settings.

As Covid-19 cases and hospitalisations rise again, the memo, brought forward by Health Minister Stephen Donnelly, has been described as a precautionary.

It is understood that no specific settings are mentioned, however, the legislation will allow for the reintroduction of masks if the virus continues to spread rapidly.

A source said the Covid-19 contingency bill will be drafted to be used only if public health advice requires mandatory masks in the future.

"There are no plans to enact this legislation, this is purely a precautionary measure," a Government source said.

The source added that all emergency legislation has now lapsed meaning that if cases were to spike in the autumn or winter there would be no legislation in place to reintroduce face coverings.

Mr Donnelly also provided a general Covid update on Covid cases and the pressure hospitals are coming under.

The Cabinet has also approved laws to abolish both overnight and day-case public in-patient charges for children under 16 years of age in all public hospitals.

Health Minister Stephen Donnelly also received Government approval to bring a Committee Stage amendment to provide for the free contraception scheme for women aged 17-25.

At present, public patients — including children — are subject to a statutory public in-patient charge of €80 per night, up to a maximum of 10 nights (€800) in a 12-month period.

Mr Donnelly is publishing the text of the Bill and intends to progress the legislation through the Houses of the Oireachtas as a priority with a view to its enactment without delay.

“I am delighted to announce that today I have received Government approval to publish this important Bill.

This legislation, when enacted, will ease the financial burden of parents/guardians when bringing their child to hospital for in-patient care.

Mr Donnelly added that the proposed contraception amendment aims to remove cost barriers to contraception for women aged 17-25.

It is expected to be particularly significant for those who are just above the means-tested limits for medical and GP visit cards, or who may still be in full-time education and financially dependent on parents and guardians.

Those with full eligibility for a medical card already have access to most forms of contraception at minimal cost.

The Drugs Payment Scheme (DPS), for which anyone ordinarily resident in Ireland is eligible, covers the cost of prescription items, including Long-Acting Reversible Contraceptives (LARCs), above a limit of €80 per month.

However, Mr Donnelly said it has been recognised that the cost of accessing contraception, particularly for those who may still be dependent on parents or guardians, or who may be just above the means-tested thresholds for the GMS and GP Visit cards, may impose a significant barrier to access.

Costs for the pill and similar repeat prescription contraceptives can therefore be estimated at €65-100 every six months, and the initial costs of long-acting reversible contraception typically range from €250-€320.

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