Coronavirus: Government rules out directing people to wear face masks in public

By Aoife Moore

The government has ruled out directing people to wear face masks in public in an effort to slow the spread of Covid-19.

The HSE's Professor Martin Cormican addressed the issue at the media briefing today, stating that there has been no change to the advice for the general public in relation to face masks, as it appeared unclear to the public whether or not surgical or medical masks should be worn in public spaces like buses or supermarkets.

The direction from the HSE comes as the White House expected to urge Americans to wear face coverings in public to slow the spread of coronavirus, in line with some other Asian countries, however Irish officials say there is little evidence to prove the measure would be effective.

"Using face masks is unlikely to be of any benefit if you are not sick," a Department of Health spokeswoman said.

"Sick people will be advised by their doctor when to use a face mask.

"Advice for healthcare staff is provided by the HPSC, is kept under review and is updated and published as required.

"Healthcare workers need face masks and other personal protective equipment to protect them from infection during their work."

The news comes as the death toll in Ireland due to Covid-19 reaches 158 with 21 deaths recorded on Sunday.

12 of the patients were reported as having underlying health conditions and their median age was 81. There have been 390 new confirmed cases of Covid-19 in Ireland, bringing the total to 4,443 cases. Of those hospitalised, 165 cases have been admitted to ICU. 1,163 cases (26%) are associated with healthcare workers.

The Taoiseach meanwhile, has re-registered as a doctor and will be offering his services to the HSE during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Leo Varadkar has offered to work on the front line once a week to help in the ongoing battle against Coronavirus.

It is understood Mr Varadkar, who was a doctor for seven years before becoming a politician, signed up to the Medical Register last month, and will be conducting phone consultations with patients.

A spokesman for the Department of Taoiseach said: “He has offered his services to the HSE for one session a week in areas that are within his scope of practice.

“Many of his family and friends are working in the health service. He wanted to help out in a small way.”

Mr Varadkar has worked in a number of hospitals across the country including Beaumont, Blanchardstown, Crumlin Children’s Hospital, Holles Street, and Tallaght in Dublin, as well as stints in hospital's in Navan and Wexford.

His partner Matt is currently working as a doctor in Dublin.

    Useful information
  • The HSE have developed an information pack on how to protect yourself and others from coronavirus. Read it here
  • Anyone with symptoms of coronavirus who has been in close contact with a confirmed case in the last 14 days should isolate themselves from other people - this means going into a different, well-ventilated room alone, with a phone; phone their GP, or emergency department;
  • GPs Out of Hours services are not in a position to order testing for patients with normal cold and flu-like symptoms. HSELive is an information line and similarly not in a position to order testing for members of the public. The public is asked to reserve 112/999 for medical emergencies at all times.
  • ALONE has launched a national support line and additional supports for older people who have concerns or are facing difficulties relating to the outbreak of COVID-19 (Coronavirus) in Ireland. The support line will be open seven days a week, 8am-8pm, by calling 0818 222 024