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Masks should form part of reopening Ireland from coronavirus lockdown - FF leader Micheál Martin


Fianna Fail’s Micheal Martin (Brian Lawless/PA)

Fianna Fail’s Micheal Martin (Brian Lawless/PA)

Fianna Fail’s Micheal Martin (Brian Lawless/PA)

FIANNA Fáil leader Micheál Martin has said that the use of face masks by the public should form part of plans for reopening Ireland from the coronavirus lock-down.

He also raised concern that the level of testing and contact tracing is "not where we should be" if the country is to reopen.

It comes as the National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET) continue to work on guidelines for the use of face coverings.

Chief Medical Officer Tony Holohan says there are no plans to make them compulsory.

In England the public are being urged to wear face coverings when they're in contact with people they wouldn't usually meet including on public transport and while shopping.

Speaking on Newstalk Radio, Mr Martin said: "I favour masks".

He told presenter Pat Kenny: "I have a sister-in-law in Singapore.

"Singapore isn't the answer to everything but she's been screaming at me metaphorically over the phone - 'why aren't you guys wearing masks?'."

Mr Martin said they have a different system there including being more transparent about where clusters of the disease emerge.

He said: "There's considerable compliance not because of an authoritarian culture but rather because people feel this is the best way to do it."

Mr Martin said countries like Singapore were better prepared for the pandemic because they experienced the Sars outbreak in the early noughties.

He said that there will be "huge costs" for the State in relation to personal protective equipment (PPE) and testing and contact tracing in the months ahead.

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Mr Martin warned that testing and contact tracing are "not where we should be in terms of facilitating the reopening of the economy and society."

He said the turn around time for results and efforts to find contacts "has to be shortened very considerably".

He added that: "social distancing, hygiene, the basics that we were told at the beginning do work".

Government formation talks between Fine Gael, Fianna Fail and the Greens resumed yesterday.

Discussions began last week after Green's leader Eamon Ryan said he received a commitment from both parties that they would work towards cutting Ireland's greenhouse gases over the next ten years.

Mr Martin said a show of "actual commitment" has to be made to the Green Party’s demand for reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 7 pc per year.

"I do think action has to speak louder than words here, in terms of the new government if it's formed. It has to really take actions that show not just intent but actual commitment to to doing this and changing how we organise ourselves and how we live.

"I would make the point that it just can't be a Green Party issue, we all have to be committed to this."

Mr Martin said there is a "nervousness" among negotiating teams, "both because of the health dimension, but also the economic dimension, which is very serious, but also the economic dimension which is very serious."

He added: "It will be very challenging in the coming months and will require a government with a majority to take decisions to deal with it."

The talks are expected to continue until the end of May or early next month.

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