Government launches campaign to encourage use of face coverings

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Health Minister Simon Harris said people will need to get into the habit of bringing a face covering out with them like they do with their phone or keys.

THE GOVERNMENT HAS launched a campaign to encourage members of the public to wear face coverings on public transport, in shops and other places where it is difficult to physically distance.

The National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet) has been recommending the use of face coverings in these settings since 15 May, but officials have acknowledged that compliance with the advice has not been strong.

At the launch of the campaign today, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said wearing cloth face coverings may help prevent people who do not know they have the virus from spreading it to others.

Wearing of face coverings is recommended:

  • when staying two metres apart from people is difficult – for example, in shops, shopping centres or public transport;
  • by people visiting the homes of those who are cocooning;
  • by people who are being visited in their homes by those who are cocooning.

Health Minister Simon Harris said it is important to stress that the wearing of a face covering is “not a magic shield” against the coronavirus and members of the public should continue to follow other advice such as regular hand washing and cough etiquette. 

“Let’s be honest, this is something that will require a bit of a behaviour change, it’s going to require getting into the habit of getting our face covering, sticking the face covering in a bag in your pocket, just like you would with your mobile phone or your keys or your wallet.”

He said the country has made “huge progress” so far and this needs to continue. 

The Taoiseach said the government had given consideration to making the use of face coverings in certain settings mandatory – and it has not been completely ruled out – but he said there are difficulties with that. 

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He pointed out that some people have phobias or suffer with breathing difficulties or other health issues that would make face covering unsuitable. Cloth face coverings are also not suitable for children under the age of 13 or anyone who has a disability and who may feel upset or uncomfortable wearing one. 

Varadkar said if compliance continues to be an issue transport providers could hold a public consultation to change their bylaws to make it mandatory and the owners of shops could ask customers to wear coverings. 

However he said people have so far come on board with the public health advice issued and the government would prefer for people to understand why it’s necessary and to do it voluntarily.

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