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'Wear a DIY mask at shops or on the bus', health chiefs warn

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Chief Medical Officer Dr Tony Holohan announces guidelines for the wearing of homemade facial coverings. Photo: Colin Keegan / Collins Dublin

Chief Medical Officer Dr Tony Holohan announces guidelines for the wearing of homemade facial coverings. Photo: Colin Keegan / Collins Dublin

Colin Keegan

Chief Medical Officer Dr Tony Holohan announces guidelines for the wearing of homemade facial coverings. Photo: Colin Keegan / Collins Dublin

Commuters and shoppers will be advised to wear DIY face masks under new guidelines to be issued by health chiefs.

The Government will this week tell the public to wear homemade face coverings on public transport and in supermarkets as they begin to ease Covid-19 restrictions.

People will be urged to make their own face coverings rather than wear medical masks that could be used by healthcare workers on the frontline.

However, it will not be mandatory to cover your face while in public, and no new laws will be introduced to ensure people comply with the advice.

Protection

An information campaign will also be launched on how to properly wear a face covering and to remind people that they offer only a certain amount of protection against contracting coronavirus.

The National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet) has debated the need for guidelines on face coverings for several of weeks.

The group, led by Chief Medical Officer Dr Tony Holohan, was expected to make a formal decision yesterday, but it was deferred until later in the week.

However, government sources said they expect Dr Holohan to advise wearing a face covering on public transport and while shopping

Last night, he indicated that guidance will include advice on how to sew or make coverings at home.

"The advice would refer to face coverings and not masks of a medical grade," he said.

"We don't want competition for people who need them in healthcare settings or where someone has been directed by a doctor to wear them for medical reasons."

Dr Holohan said there will be "practical communications about face coverings and how to make them".

He noted that there are already demonstrations on the internet on how to make masks at home.

"There will also be guidance on how to use them safely. The evidence is clear that if they are not used properly they can increase the risk of transmission," he added.

Dr Holohan warned that face coverings can become contaminated and cause the virus to spread further.

"The risk of transmission of the virus is increased if people don't wash their hands or practise social distancing," he said.

"There is a right way to do this. They do not protect you entirely from the virus."

The Government has fast-tracked advice on wearing face coverings to stop the spread of the virus.

In the Nphet's draft road map for reopening the country, Dr Holohan's team proposed issuing guidelines on face coverings next month.

This advice was removed from the road map by the Government before it was published.

Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin said yesterday that the use of face masks by the public should form part of plans for reopening Ireland after the lockdown.

Screaming

He also expressed concern that the level of testing and contact tracing is "not where we should be" if the country is to reopen.

Speaking on Newstalk Radio, Mr Martin said: "I favour masks.

"I have a sister-in-law in Singapore. Singapore isn't the answer to everything, but she's been screaming at me metaphorically over the phone - 'why aren't you guys wearing masks?'"

Mr Martin said Singapore has a different system, including being more transparent about where clusters of the disease emerge.

"There's considerable compliance, not because of an authoritarian culture but rather because people feel this is the best way to do it," he said.