The Taoiseach has said the public may be advised to wear face coverings in some public spaces in the coming weeks.
Speaking this morning, Leo Varadkar said it was important to point out that the guidance would relate to face ‘coverings’ rather than masks as surgical masks need to be “preserved and protected for healthcare staff.”
He noted that there are conflicting opinions about the effectiveness of face coverings in the scientific community and said guidance would be issued later in the week.
“The issue of advising people to wear a face-covering is under consideration at the moment and we are seeing what is happening in other countries,” he said.
“Certainly, the science on this is equivocal. Some people say it is a good idea, some people say it doesn’t make a difference and some people say it is a bad idea.
“So, it is not one of those straightforward decisions where the science tells you it is the right thing to do or the wrong thing to do.”
He said nobody would be forced to wear a mask for as long as the scientific opinion is unclear.
“There is certainly a trend across the developed world to advise the public people to wear coverings in places where social distancing is difficult, like for example public transport or an enclosed public space,” he said.
“That is under consideration and I think we will be in apposition to offer revised advice to the Irish public on that later in the week.
“Because there isn’t agreement in the scientific community on this, it is not something we would ever make compulsory – but it is something we may make advisory for that very reason.”
He was speaking amid rising speculation over the next phase of the national response to the virus.
Reports this morning indicate that the National Public Health Emergency team will set out a phased roadmap for easing restrictions later in the week.
The first phases reportedly includes allowing over-70s to leave their homes on a no-touch basis, allowing up to four people to gather together outside while observing social distancing and a potential increase to the 2km limit for exercise.
Mr Varadkar said the Government will only begin reopening Ireland’s economy and society when the medical data and advice indicates that it is safe to do so.