Mask-wearing requirement for fully vaccinated could go, Leo Varadkar says

Mask-wearing requirement for fully vaccinated could go, Leo Varadkar says

MASK-WEARING could become a thing of the past for fully vaccinated people, the Tánaiste has suggested.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has advised that fully vaccinate people can “resume activities without wearing a mask”, except where required by law or local regulations.

Asked if Ireland would introduce the same measures, Leo Varadkar said the advice of the CDC has tended to be adopted here.

“It has been the pattern that we tend to adopt similar advice as the CDC,” said Mr Varadkar. “But bear in mind that the US are ahead of us in the vaccination programme.”

He described the CDC as the American Nphet.

“Often what they advise is what we advise.

“So if you look at the vaccine goals that we have, in terms of allowing people who are vaccinated to meet up outdoors, that was initially advice that was first put out there by the CDC.

“It’s for the HSE now to examine, but I wouldn’t be surprised if we adopted their advice as we have done in the past.”

Mr Varadkar was speaking at the publication of an updated Government protocol for workplaces on the use of antigen testing.

“We are encouraging our employers to deploy antigen testing in workplaces,” he said.

“But we’re very much emphasising that this is an additional health and safety measure.

“It should not be seen as a passport to do anything that you wouldn’t be doing anyway and should not be seen as a substitute for all the other things like ventilation, social distancing, mask wearing.”

Controversy has surrounded the use of antigen testing among the public, with Nphet divided on the issue.

Chief Medical Officer Tony Holohan and Nphet’s Irish Epidemiological Modelling Advisory Group chair Philip Nolan have asked the public not to use the tests.

However, fellow Nphet member Mark Ferguson, who authored a Government report on the issue, has advocated for their more widespread use.

Mr Varadkar said the Government has adopted the report. It recommends that Ireland deploys the tests and “provide good self-administration instructions, training and reading (e.g. through bar code or smart phone), allowing people to take control over their health”.

Asked why the Government has opted against providing the public with advice for proper use of the test, the Tánaiste said: “The position from Government is that it’s really for schools, colleges, workplaces. We want to encourage the use of antigen testing, not so much individuals doing so. I’m sure people could be taught to do it. But they will need to be taught to do it, not just figure out for themselves at home.

“We want to avoid false reassurance of people taking the view that because they’ve tested negative, this is a licence to do things they wouldn’t otherwise do.”

He said a public information campaign could be seen as a “harm reduction strategy”.

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