The Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar has announced the easing of restrictions from Monday 18th May, in Ireland. As many businesses and their staff return to work as outlined in Phase One of the Governments Roadmap existing hygiene measures and social distancing will still form part of our everyday activities. The Taoiseach has also introduced an additional hygiene measure. People should use face coverings or face masks when using busy public transport or in an enclosed indoor public area, such as retail, from Monday, as part of Phase One of the easing of Covid-19 restrictions.
It is advised to wear a face covering in situations where social distancing is not possible such as shops or public transport. They are not a replacement for washing hands, or keeping the 2m distance from others when outdoors. The Taoiseach said the wearing of face coverings is advisory – and is not a legal requirement. He said: “The science shows they may be beneficial but they are not a substitute for all of the other guidelines.”
Professor of Immunology at Trinity College Dublin, Luke O’Neill, said that the use of face coverings will be “critical” in reopening the country. He stressed that “most countries” have already issued instructions on coverings, “because they all know it’s a key element”. Professor O’Neill believes that using coverings should be a “key strategy” along with existing public health advice like social distancing and handwashing.
“Wearing a mask will help to stop the transmission of the virus in public places. If we don’t wear masks, there is a risk of transmission, a risk of infecting people. So I see it as a key strategy with all the rest of it,” he said. He added that scientific studies are suggesting that 95% of the “viral load” can be trapped in a face covering, meaning that if two people together are wearing coverings, there will be “virtually no exchange of the virus between those two people”.
Professor Gerry Killeen, AXA Research Chair in Applied Pathogen Ecology at the School of Biological, Earth & Environmental Sciences, and Environmental Research Institute at University College Cork highlights that while wearing a mask or other face-covering is always a good thing, that doesn’t necessarily mean masks are essential for everyone at all times and in all places. While widespread use should be encouraged, it is most important to emphasise where and when wearing a mask matters most. “I’d like to see masks made absolutely mandatory for anyone working in any essential service, especially anyone handling food, stacking shelves, moving goods, or working in any venue visited by members of the public” he added. “Instead of using masks to enable easing of restrictions, we could instead use them to enhance their impact and really crush the curve of the epidemic, ideally eliminating it within months” concludes Professor Killeen.
In relation to work and business, the Taoiseach said outdoor workers like construction, gardeners, allotments can return to work. All of the following retailers can open: Hardware stores, builders’ merchants, and stores that provide supplies and tools essential for gardening, farming and agriculture; Garden centres and farmers’ markets; opticians/optometrists/outlets providing hearing test services, selling hearing aids and appliances; retailers involved in the sale, supply and repair of motor vehicles, motorcycles and bicycles and related facilities; office products and services; and Electrical, IT and phone sales, repair and maintenance services for home.
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