Face coverings to be compulsory on public transport from Monday

Picture: Sam Boal/Rollingnews.ie
By Daniel McConnell
Political Editor

The wearing of face masks on public transport will be compulsory from Monday morning, Taoiseach Micheál Martin has confirmed.

Regulations are to be signed into effect tonight to give effect to the new directive aimed at reducing the reproduction rate of the Covid-19 virus as society continues to open up.

Speaking following a meeting with HSE boss Paul Reid, Mr Martin said: “In relation to masks, as from Monday, the wearing of masks will be compulsory on public transport.”

“The regulations will be signed later this evening and will come into effect on Monday next,” he said.

“We encourage people outside of the public transport system we encourage people to wear masks in crowded indoor gatherings and game where social distancing is not possible, but it will be compulsory on public transport as an from Monday,” he said.

    Under the new regulations:
  • People who do not comply and wear face coverings on public transport could face fines of up to €2,500 and/or six months in prison
  • If a person does not comply, then a driver or inspector can alert gardaí
  • If then a person fails to cooperate with gardaí, they can face arrest and prosecution, which could lead to a €2,500 fine and/or 6 months in prison, the regulations say
  • Children under the age of 13 will be exempt from wearing face coverings on public transport, as per the HSE guidelines
  • There are exceptions whereby a mask will not be required
  • People with trouble breathing, people who cannot remove a face covering without help and people with special needs and who may feel upset or uncomfortable wearing a face covering will also not have to wear them on public transport

Asked about enforcement of the rules, he said it will be clear in the regulations that the national transport authorities will have the authority to say to people, ‘you may not come on if you don't have, if you're not wearing a mask’.

“If people are persistent in disobeying then the Gardai can be called but again we don't envisage that having to be necessary. My experience has always been from earlier times that wants to say to people, it's not against the law, people will actually conform. And, basically, people will not be allowed to stay on buses, without a mask on trains either for that matter,” he said.

The Taoiseach also said there is considerable concern among health officials now that Northern Ireland has relaxed its travel restrictions saying ideally an all Ireland approach would be developed.

“Our public health officials are very concerned about the potential of travel and the reopening of travel to impact negatively on the transmission of the virus. So we will be taking that on board, and we will be meeting with the Prime Minister Deputy First Minister next week and we will discuss these issues because I tend to agree with Professor Gabriel Scally that ideally, an all island approach to these issues, is probably optimal. There are challenges in that regard, obviously. But our public health officials are not comfortable, say the least, at the moment in terms of the travel issue,” he added.

Mr Martin also said the government will take advice from method in relation to the commencement of phase four of the reopening for pubs and the wider economy.

“There is concern about indoor gatherings, and the degree to which those indoor gatherings may be causing an increase in the prevalence of the virus and leading to a spread,” he said.

“There's also concern about travel related incidents of the spread of the virus. Our approach to date has been very cautious in relation to travel. And as we said last week, we will be dealing with that on the 20th of July. We will take photo advice monitor the situation we developed a methodology. And we've arranged measures that we're working on. Before we announce any green list in relation to travel. But we will be taking a very cautious approach to it,” Mr Martin said.

He called on people this weekend to observe social distancing and to avoid gathering in large crowds and said Gardai will be carrying out checks on pubs to ensure compliance.

“We are concerned about that, and we were concerned about the breaches last week. I applaud the gardai they've taken cases, they've highlighted certain establishments that were a breach of the of the law. The gardai will be out in the boat again this weekend to prevent a reoccurrence of what happened last weekend,” he said.

“This is a very dangerous virus that can damage people's health for quite a long time. It's not something to be taken lightly, as we've seen in various analysis from medical world and indeed from people who had the virus. So, it's extremely important that we try and prevent as many people as possible from from from getting this virus. And that is why we appeal to the public, really, to adhere to public health advice and behave responsibly this, we all have a personal responsibility in relation to stopping the spread of this virus,” he said.

Mr Martin said the overarching priority for his government, moving to the end of the summer, is to get to schools open and continue to work is underway with all of the stakeholders in education. “We do need for the sake of the children, their development, their life chances to have schools reopening towards the end of August,” he said.