Just one in seven staff was found to be wearing face masks in one of the country's major hospitals treating Covid-19 patients, an internal audit has revealed.
Carried out in St Vincent's public hospital, it found that compliance with wearing face masks was as low as 14pc.
When asked if they were following the two-metre physical distancing rule, only 31.4pc of staff said they were complying.
Both measures are key to reducing transmission of the virus, particularly in healthcare settings where patients with weakened immune systems are being treated.
A spokeswoman for the St Vincent's Healthcare Group said on April 27 the National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet) decided to update guidelines on the wearing of surgical masks.
St Vincent's staff are required to follow national guidelines which include the wearing of surgical masks when they are providing care to people and are within two metres of a patient.
The masks need to be worn whether the patient has the virus or is being treated for another condition.
The spokeswoman said that surgical masks should be worn by all healthcare workers for all encounters of 15 minutes or more with colleagues where a distance of two metres cannot be maintained.
Following the announcement of the new guidelines, St Vincent's University Hospital decided to conduct a baseline audit starting on Monday, April 27.
It looked at staff compliance with protective equipment protocols over a three-week period.
"The purpose of this audit was to inform communications and education programmes with staff. The results of future audits will be measured against this baseline audit," said the spokeswoman.
"There is regular communications with staff on PPE protocols including online education on the proper use of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and hand hygiene.
"Masks are available to all staff in clinical areas. Posters, signage and floor markings throughout the hospital remind staff regularly of hygiene and social distancing protocols."
The Health Protection Surveillance Centre said that use of surgical masks by healthcare workers in the context of viral respiratory tract infection has two objectives.
These include reducing the risk of droplet transmission of infection to the wearer. It also reduces the chances of the virus being passed on to others.
"Use of surgical masks for these purposes is in addition to and is not intended as a replacement for other measures to reduce the risk of transmission of infection," it said.
"These measures include hand hygiene and maintaining a distance of two metres between people whenever possible.
"Surgical masks must be donned correctly and should remain in place covering the nose and mouth throughout the period of use. Masks should not be moved up and down over the nose and mouth."
Face coverings became mandatory on public transport yesterday but the take up was relatively low.
The advice to the general public on the use of face coverings or masks is to wear one in situations where it is difficult to practise social distancing, for example, in shops or on public transport.
It says that the wearing of cloth face coverings may help prevent people who do not know they have the virus from spreading it to others
If you wear one you still need to practise social distancing and wash your hands.