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

US health experts have recommended fully vaccinated people can dispense with mask wearing and social distancing, and Ireland could follow suit.
Mask-wearing requirement for fully vaccinated could go, Varadkar says

By James Ward, PA

Mask wearing could become a thing of the past for fully vaccinated people, the Tanaiste has suggested.

The US Centre for Disease Control and Protection (CDC) has advised that fully vaccinate people can “resume activities without wearing a mask of physically distancing”, 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 in Ireland.

Coronavirus – Sun Apr 18, 2021
A Garda walks past a new mural at Dublin’s Grand Canal Docks by the artist Chels (Chelsea Jacobs), reflecting the uncertain future of children due to Covid-19 restrictions (Brian Lawless/PA)

He said: “All I can say is I’m aware of the CDC advice.It has been the pattern that we tend to adopt similar advice as the CDC.

“But bear in mind that the US are ahead of us in the vaccination programme.

“Not much, but they are ahead of us.”

And often what they advise is what we advise.

So if you look at the vaccine goals that we have in terms of allowing people that are vaccinated, we talk about doors.

Mr Varadkar described the CDC as the American Nphet, adding: “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.

“They have 300 million people, huge resources.

“Often what they deem to be scientific safe is something that other authorities follow.

“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.

He said: “We are encouraging our employers to deploy antigen testing in workplaces.

“But we’re very much emphasising that this is an additional health 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 wider public, with Nphet divided on the issue.

Chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan and chairman of the Nphet modelling Professor Ronan Glynn have pointedly asked the public not to use them.

But fellow Nphet member Prof Mark Ferguson, who authored a Government report on their use, 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 Tanaiste said: “The position from government is that it’s really for schools, colleges, workplaces.

“We want to we want to encourage the use of antigen testing, not so many individuals doing so.

“One, because there is a high chance that they may not use the test correctly.It is different putting on a mask carrying out a swab.

“I’m sure people could be taught to do it."

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