Following a Cabinet meeting on Tuesday February 22nd the government has confirmed it is accepting advice from NPHET to lift requirements for masks in retail settings, staff in hospitality settings and other indoor public settings and lifting almost all restrictions around mask-wearing.
With effect from Monday 28 February:
- the mandatory requirement to wear masks will be removed, while the public health advice that masks should continue to be worn on public transport and in healthcare settings remains.
- advice in relation to COVID-19 symptoms, cases and close contacts is changing.
- critical components of our collective response remain – rapid isolation if you are symptomatic, completing your vaccination course, continuing to manage risk for yourself and others who are more vulnerable.
Tánaiste Leo Varadkar said: “Of course there are people who may wish to continue to wear a mask and they are free to do so (and) people who have underlying conditions may also wish to choose to do so.”
The government noted that the current epidemiological profile of COVID-19 in Ireland continues to provide a broadly stable and positive outlook. Following a recent moderate increase, particularly amongst young adults, the number of infections detected per day remains high but has stabilised and may be starting to decrease. While the burden on our hospitals remains significant, it is relatively stable.
Omicron is still with us so there are critical components which still require our collective response:
- isolate if you are symptomatic (even if you are fully vaccinated and boosted) or if you are diagnosed with COVID-19.
- complete your primary and booster programme of vaccination.
- continue to manage risk for yourself and others who are more vulnerable including by wearing masks, physical distancing and avoiding crowds as well as basic hand and respiratory hygiene.
Chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan had recommended an end to the mandatory wearing of masks in his letter to Health Minister Stephen Donnelly, where he said NPHET had concluded that there is “no longer a continuing public health rationale” for retaining them.
Updated guidance is expected to be issued for early learning and childcare providers on preventing the spread of infection. The Department of Children is working with the Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC) to update the guidance.
Minister for Children Roderic O’Gorman thanked “early learning and childcare providers and their staff for the commitment they have shown to children and families since the onset of Covid-19 and their ongoing efforts to implement the public health guidance, keeping the children in their care safe”.
Following the announcement, the Teachers Union of Ireland (TUI) has raised concerns about the decision and said that it may be premature. The TUI has said that many of its members will continue to wear face masks and said that it will support them.
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