A consultant in infectious diseases has said he has “reservations” about the decision to make mask wearing voluntary in hospitals.
Three years after they were made compulsory to stop the spread of COVID-19, the Health Protection Surveillance Centre recommended they be made optional in hospitals.
It is a decision that Professor Jack Lambert of UCD views with mixed emotions.
“I’m not so sure about that, to be perfectly honest,” he told The Hard Shoulder.
“I agree we need to get back to some sense of normalcy but the challenge is that that most vulnerable people come to the hospital for outpatient appointments.
“I would say that the highest risk group for still catching COVID is healthcare workers and, just anecdotally, I can tell you a dozen in the last couple of weeks who have been off work because they got symptomatic COVID.
“The guidelines say if you’re symptomatic as a patient, you should obviously wear a mask and if you’re symptomatic as a doctor or a healthcare worker, you should obviously wear a mask.
“But a lot of people are transmitting the virus before they become symptomatic; so, I guess I have reservations - I’m going to continue to use a mask and I’m going to continue to encourage my staff to wear a mask in the hospital.”
The HPSC has caveated that masks should still be worn “for interaction with patients with respiratory viral symptoms" and Professor Lambert agrees that is sensible.
“Just in the last week, I’ve seen four people admitted to the hospital sick,” he said.
“Two of them immunocompromised [and] one of them a healthcare worker; their only risk factor for catching COVID… was they came for a hospital visit in the last couple of weeks - so, they must have caught it in the hospital.
“So, I don’t think we should be totally throwing away masks, I think we need to continue to use judgement.”
In February last year, the Government decided the wearing of masks in shops and on public transport would be made optional.
Main image: A medic.