Advice to be issued on new face-covering protocols for public transport, supermarkets
Commuters and shoppers will be advised to wear homemade facemasks under new advice to be issued by health chiefs.
The Government will this week tell the public to wear the homemade face coverings on public transport and in supermarkets as it begins the process of easing Covid-19 restrictions.
People will be urged to make their own face coverings rather than use medical masks which could be used by healthcare workers fighting the virus on the frontline.
However, it will not be mandatory to cover your face while in public and no new laws will be introduced to ensure people comply with the advice.
An information campaign will also be launched, telling the public how to properly wear a face covering and reminding people that they only offer a certain amount of protection against the coronavirus.
The National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet) has debated the need for guidelines on face coverings for weeks.
The group, led by chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan, was expected to make a formal decision on face coverings yesterday, but it was delayed until later in the week.
However, Government sources said they expect Mr Holohan to advise the wearing of face coverings on public transport and in major retail outlets.
Last night, Mr Holohan indicated that guidance on the wearing of facemasks will include advice on how to sew or make coverings at home.
"The advice would refer to face coverings and not masks of a medical grade," he said.
"We don't want competition for people who need them in healthcare settings or where someone has been directed by a doctor to wear them for medical reasons."
Mr Holohan said there will be "practical communications about face coverings and how to make them".
He noted there are already demonstrations on the internet on how to make homemade facemasks
"There will also be guidance on how to use them safely. The evidence is clear that if they are not used properly they can increase the risk of transmission," he added.
He warned that face coverings can become contaminated, and cause the virus to spread further.
"The risk of transmission of the virus is increased if people don't wash their hands or practice social distancing.
"There is a right way to do this. They do not protect you entirely from the virus," he added.
The Government has fast-tracked advice on wearing face coverings to stop the spread of the coronavirus.
In Nphet's draft roadmap for reopening the country, Mr Holohan's team proposed issuing guidelines on face coverings in June.
But this advice was removed from the roadmap by the Government before it was published.
Yesterday, Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin said that the use of facemasks by the public should form part of plans for reopening Ireland from the coronavirus lockdown.
He also raised concern that the level of testing and contact tracing is "not where we should be" if the country is to reopen.
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.
"There's considerable compliance not because of an authoritarian culture but rather because people feel this is the best way to do it," he said.
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