Q: The debate over whether people should wear face masks in public during the Covid-19 crisis has reignited. Why is it back on the agenda?
A: It follows remarks by Dr David Nabarro, the World Health Organisation's Covid-19 envoy, who has said people should get accustomed to a new reality of always wearing a facial covering.
Q: Is he talking about after some lockdown restrictions have been eased?
A: His idea is that if hairdressing salons, for instance, are allowed reopen they would be useful. Ireland will face dilemmas on how far restrictive measures should be relaxed after May 5. So it's worth discussing any suggestions that might make things easier and safer.
Q: In what context was he speaking?
A: He has made the suggestion on a number of broadcast media, including RTÉ. He says the coronavirus will "stalk the human race" for some time. The masks could provide a form of "reassurance" for people while we wait for a vaccine.
The coronavirus could paralyse countries into a set of strict measures - but we don't know when we will have a vaccine. We have to learn to live with Covid-19. He said the wearing of masks does not mean physical distancing or hand-washing are abandoned.
Q: Is there not a shortage of face masks?
A: He said they should be given to health workers first, and then to people who have the virus.
For the wider population, it will not be possible to ensure everybody quickly can access the good masks, the N95 version, but they may have some form of facial protection.
Q: What is the WHO advice on facial masks or facial protection?
A: The WHO recently said it remains the case that medical masks should be reserved for healthcare workers, not the general public. They can be worn by people with the virus who have symptoms and by carers of people who are infected. They may give the public a false sense of security, people put their hands to their face more to fix them and the covering can become contaminated.
Q: What is the view of the Department of Health here?
A: Dr Tony Holohan, chief medical officer, said it was discussed at a meeting of the National Public Health Emergency Team. It decided it would not recommend it on the grounds it would give a person a false sense of security and they might be less inclined to practice physical distancing and hand-washing. But the matter is being kept under review.
Q: Are they recommended in other countries?
A: The Centres for Disease Control and Prevention in the US recently said that people should wear non-surgical cloth face coverings when they go out in public.
It said that asymptomatic people who do not know they have the virus could be spreading it.
Up to a quarter of people who have Covid-19 may not show any symptoms, it suggests.
The advice is that people wear mouth and nose face coverings.
These include homemade masks, scarves or bandanas when out and about walking or shopping.
It does not recommend N95 respirators which are in short supply.
People should also not wear surgical masks, which are also needed by healthcare workers.
Q: What if somebody has symptoms of the virus and wants to work but wears a mask?
A: No. They need to self-isolate and not risk passing it on.