A CORK Opposition TD has accused the Government of “rushing the fences” in deciding to remove the legal requirements for mask wearing in all settings where it is currently regulated for.
From today, in line with recommendations from the National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET), the mandatory requirement to wear face masks will be removed, while the public health advice that masks should continue to be worn on public transport and in healthcare settings remains.
However, speaking in the Dáil in recent days, Socialist Party and Solidarity TD Mick Barry argued that the removal of mandatory mask-wearing was premature.
“In many European countries, frontline workers have expressed opposition and concerns with regards the rapid dismantling of Covid restrictions, including mandatory wearing of masks.
“While it is true that the Irish Government have been slightly slower to move in this direction, concerns are being expressed here by those such as teachers, SNAs, public transport workers, retail workers and others with particular reference to the change in masking policy for their work places.”
Speaking to The Echo, Mr Barry said he raised the matter in the Dáil after he was contacted by a number of his constituents who work in schools and public transport settings expressing concerns about the ending of the mask mandate.
“My personal view is that compulsory masking up shouldn’t go on too much longer.
“But I think the Government are rushing the fences when it comes to the like of schools, public transport and retail,” he said.
A Government spokesperson told The Echo that the Government has noted that the Covid-19 situation in Ireland “continues to have a broadly stable and positive outlook, and while the burden on our hospitals remains significant, it is relatively stable”.
“NPHET advised there was no longer a public health rationale for retaining many of the mandatory pandemic measures, and their recommendations were accepted by Government.
“However, it was agreed that the continuation of mask-wearing in healthcare settings will continue to be important and remain in line with evolving national guidance.
“The public health advice remains that people should wear masks in settings like public transport, and the importance of vaccination, and taking measures to protect our most vulnerable remains,” the spokesperson continued.
A number of other changes also come into effect today in relation to isolation and testing requirements for Covid-19 symptoms, cases and close contacts.
For those who have symptoms of the virus, certain groups including people aged 55 and older, those who are immunocompromised or pregnant are asked to self-isolate and seek a PCR test.
For most people, the advice is that no test is required but they should self-isolate until 48 hours after symptoms resolve.
Those with confirmed Covid-19 infection will need to isolate for seven days, and if aged 9 or older, to wear an appropriate mask for 10 days.
Close contacts who are not healthcare workers are advised that they must self-isolate if symptoms develop but no test is required if not symptomatic.