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'Wearing a Face Mask is not mandatory,' says Harris

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Health Minister Simon Harris. Photo: Steve Humphreys

Health Minister Simon Harris. Photo: Steve Humphreys

Health Minister Simon Harris. Photo: Steve Humphreys

Health Minister Simon Harris clarified the Government's stance on face masks yesterday, saying that wearing them is recommended but not required.

After weeks of uncertainty around whether wearing masks in public was to be recommended, the Fine Gael TD said government advice is that wearing a face covering is recommended for most people, but is not compulsory.

Speaking at a government press conference approving the first wave of lockdown relaxations from tomorrow, Mr Harris said: "There has been an awful lot of questions raised by people - should I or should I not wear a face mask?

"The first thing I would do is differentiate between a face mask, which is something people might use in a health or social care setting, and a face covering, which might be something that you or I could make at home.

"There is now guidance that in certain circumstances, there may be some benefits to wearing a face covering - that's generally on public transport, or in enclosed indoor spaces.

"I do though want to make sure we don't get into a situation here where there is some sort of stigma if you don't wear a face mask.

"The guidance suggests that people under the age of 13 should not wear face coverings and also there are people with certain medical conditions, and people with allergies or perhaps people with autism who find the material, from a sensitivity point of view, to be too difficult to wear.

"So, not everybody is in a position to wear a face covering and it's not mandatory. What it simply is, is guidance as an extra hygiene measure that people may wish to consider in certain circumstances."

Mr Harris discouraged travelling off the island of Ireland and warned that anyone travelling home will have to self-isolate for 14 days.

He also announced that the Department of Health has introduced 'Passenger Locator Forms' detailing where travellers intend to self-isolate and their contact details, which he intends to put on a regulatory footing.

The Dublin TD said he is "encouraged to see that continuing downward trend in relation to both ICU admissions and hospitalisations".

He said the number of people currently in ICU with Covid-19 is 56, while the number of people in hospitals with the virus stood at 390 yesterday, down from 419 the day before.

It was announced later that 15 more people died from Covid-19. The new data shows there have been another 92 cases, meaning there have been a total of 1,533 deaths and 24,048 cases.

Sunday Independent