A mask mandate has been ruled out by Taoiseach Leo Varadkar.
Since early December, there has been a “sharp increase” in the number of flu and COVID cases, putting huge pressure on the health service.
A National Crisis Management Team has been set up and there was speculation that masks could be made compulsory again following a meeting between An Taoiseach and the Minister for Health.
However, the Government has since ruled out the introduction of such a measure.
“As things stand, we don’t have any proposals to reintroduce a mask mandate,” Mr Varadkar said.
“But we are encouraging people to use masks in crowd settings - particularly, for example, on public transport.
“[We’re] very much saying to people that if you have respiratory symptoms, you should stay at home until they are resolved and also really encouraging people who haven’t taken the flu or COVID vaccine to do so.”
Speaking to Newstalk, UCD Professor of Medicine and Infectious Disease Dr Jack Lambert said that mask wearing is still effective at stopping the spread of disease.
“The reality is that masks don’t work 100% but they prevent the spread of respiratory viruses and there’s lots of respiratory viruses that have increased in the recent past from flu, RSV and more importantly COVID-19,” he said.
“So, I think it’s a way to minimise the transmission.”
Yesterday, there were 656 people in Irish hospitals with COVID-19 and the HSE has predicted that over 900 people will be hospitalised with flu during the first week of January.
Main image: Leo Varadkar. Picture by: RollingNews.ie