Q. Is it only a matter of time before we are all wearing a face mask or covering up in public here to help stop the spread of the coronavirus?
A. Ireland is increasingly out of step with countries such as Spain, Italy and Germany where there is guidance recommending their use.
Q. Why have they taken this decision?
A. The view is that wearers can reduce the risk of transmitting the virus to others. This is particularly the case when a person is infected - it can also help block transmission from people who have the virus and don't know it.
Q. We hear a lot about the shortage of PPE (personal protective equipment) for health workers. Would it make sense to ensure they have enough supplies first?
A. We need to ensure that surgical masks and respirators should be reserved for health care staff. In other countries the move has mostly been to advise people to make reusable cotton masks from simple items they can find in their house.
It is common to see people with scarves covering their mouth and nose.
Q. What is the advice about using a scarf as a face mask?
A. It's useful to wrap it around your face twice and tie it under the chin to ensure it stays in place. Apparently, the thicker the scarf the better. It needs to cover your nose and mouth. Also when you are removing it don't touch your face and don't fiddle with it while wearing it because we should all be trying to put our hands to our face as little as possible. Infection happens when the virus gets into the mouth, nose or eyes.
Q. What are the best materials to use if people make a homemade mask?
A. One study showed the best were made from a cotton sheet with 80-120 thread count. This was followed by paper towels, canvas and shop towels. Other useful pieces included cotton T-shirts. Natural materials are better so cotton is preferable to polyester for filtering out particles.
Q. Where do our Department of Health expert advisers stand on face-mask use in public?
A. As of now they do not recommend them for reasons such as giving a false sense of security and the risk people will be fussing with them by putting their hands to their face. But the issue remains under review.
Q. And a mask is no substitute for physical distancing?
A. Correct, you need to maintain a two-metre distance in public.
In early March we watched as coronavirus cases emerged, many related to travel from affected regions. Anxiety grew and concerns were voiced. When community acquired transmission was confirmed alarm bells were ringing.