Face coverings now mandatory in shops in Ireland

Shoppers who refuse to wear coverings will face fines of up to €2,500 in the Republic, or a fixed penalty notice of £60 in the North. File photo

Face coverings are mandatory in shops, shopping centres and other indoor settings in all parts of Ireland from Monday.

Shoppers who refuse to wear coverings in the Republic will face fines of up to €2,500 and a potential prison stint.

The new rules also apply to indoor retail settings including hairdressers, libraries and cinemas.

Children under 13 and people with a disability or physical or mental illness are exempt.

The announcement was made last week by Taoiseach Micheál Martin, along with the decision to postpone the further reopening of businesses planned for August 10th.

Portarlington GP Dr Sumi Dunne welcomed the new regulation, saying it “is an excellent initiative”.

Speaking on RTÉ's Morning Ireland, Dr Dunne warned it was important to wear a face covering properly, ensuring that nose and chin were covered.

Pulling down a mask to the neck while talking or eating was not effective and could lead to infection, she said.

In the North, a new regulation is also being brought in on Monday to wear face coverings in shops and other enclosed settings unless the individual is unable to.

Breaches of the new rule can result in a fixed penalty notice of £60 (€66) which will be reduced to £30 if paid within 14 days.

Announcing the measure agreed by the Northern Ireland Executive last Thursday, First Minister Arlene Foster said it was about trying to give confidence to people who feel vulnerable as the coronavirus pandemic continues.

In a joint statement on Sunday evening, the Executive described the use of face coverings as a “vital defence in our battle against Covid-19”.

“This is about looking after each other and doing everything we can to stay on top of this virus. It will help to save lives,” they said.

They added: “We are confident most people will comply, but those who do not wear a face covering without a reasonable excuse risk being issued with a fixed penalty notice by the police.”

Aodhan Connolly, director of the Northern Ireland Retail Consortium, said the responsibility lies with customers.

“Retailers are doing all they can to support necessary safety regulations and will play their role in communicating and encouraging the Executive’s new policy on face coverings,” he said.

“We would urge everyone who can wear face coverings to abide by the law and do so. This is not just about a legal responsibility – it’s about protecting each other. Please wear one – and encourage your family, friends and colleagues to do likewise. Everyone has a role to play in ensuring compliance.”

The legislation does not apply to children under 13, or those who cannot wear a mask because of health or disability reasons. Further information is available at www.nidirect.gov.uk/face-coverings.

Additional reporting: PA