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'Nobody should get on public transport without a mask full stop,' Dáil told

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A woman wearing a protective face mask waits at a bus stop which displays a message of 'Thank you to Ireland's healthcare workers' in Dublin. Photo: REUTERS/Clodagh Kilcoyne

A woman wearing a protective face mask waits at a bus stop which displays a message of 'Thank you to Ireland's healthcare workers' in Dublin. Photo: REUTERS/Clodagh Kilcoyne

REUTERS

A woman wearing a protective face mask waits at a bus stop which displays a message of 'Thank you to Ireland's healthcare workers' in Dublin. Photo: REUTERS/Clodagh Kilcoyne

COMMUNICATIONS with the public on the use of face masks as part of efforts to fight the spread of Covid-19 have been "an absolute and chronic disaster" it has been claimed.

Labour leader Alan Kelly made the claim in the Dáil and said "nobody should get on public transport without a mask full stop".

Health Minister Simon Harris later admitted the messaging has been "confused".

There has been very few people using face coverings on public transport and in shops despite the public health advice that they should be worn.

Mr Kelly raised the issue with Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and said everyone in the country should be contacted about the use of facemasks.

He suggested a once-off communication that would provide examples of masks.

Mr Kelly added: "In Catalonia, everyone can get a mask in the pharmacy for free and, in addition, can buy one for less than a euro. I ask the Taoiseach to please consider that."

Mr Varadkar said the advice is "very simple" and face coverings should be used on public transport and indoor crowded places like supermarkets.

He said: "People should be aware that it is not a magic shield or an alternative to physical distancing, hand washing or other things, but it can help". He said they must be worn properly and not around people's necks like a scarf.

"We will have to launch a new public information campaign to reinforce that," he said.

Later, during a debate with the health minister, Fianna Fáil TD Paul McAuliffe said the messaging on masks has been confusing and that despite being recommended by the National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET) six weeks ago "very few Irish people are wearing face masks".

He said he doesn't believe it needs to be enforced but called for a public information campaign.

Mr Harris said he agreed with Mr McAuliffe that there needs to be a public awareness campaign.

He added: "I take the implicit and fair criticism that messaging has been confused in this regard possibly because so many different people and experts have an opinion on it."

But Mr Harris said the clear view of public health experts and the government is face coverings should be worn on public transport, in shops and when visiting people who have been cocooning.

Online Editors