Irish people should go back to wearing masks in confined places, according to a World Health Organisation expert.
COVID hospitalisations have more than doubled since the mask mandate was dropped nearly one-month ago – although the number of patients with COVID in ICU has remained relatively steady.
Some 1,419 people in public hospitals last night had been diagnosed with the virus – up from less than 600 at the end of February.
On Newstalk yesterday, the HSE chief Paul Reid confirmed that around half had been admitted to hospital for other reasons.
This morning, World Health Organisation Special Envoy Dr David Nabarro said people should go back to using masks in places like shops, hospitality venues and public transport.
“I would say to everybody, why not wear a mask when numbers of cases are rising like they are in Ireland right now?” he said.
“Don’t wait for authorities to order it. Just get the mask out of the cupboard, put it in your pocket and then when you go into a place where there are other people just simply slip it on.”
He said people should be especially careful when mingling in poorly ventilated spaces.
“If I were in Ireland right now, I would be expecting there to be a request for mask-wearing in confined spaces where there may be crowds,” he said.
“Public transport is an example and hospitality venues that are hot and not ventilated - cellars and the like - I would be expecting those to be the kind of places where mask-wearing and physical distancing become strongly recommended.”
Meanwhile, the Taoiseach has confirmed there are no plans to reintroduce mandatory mask-wearing – but urged people to take it upon themselves to wear them where necessary.
Speaking on his arrival in Brussels yesterday, Micheál Martin said people have always been advised to wear masks in crowded situations, including on public transport or in retail.
He said there are no plans to re-introduce any restrictions – with the Chief Medical Officer confirming that the current surge does not justify it.
Meanwhile, officials are considering reducing the seven-day isolation rule for people who pick up the virus.
The Irish Independent reports the government is examining the move after concerns were raised about staff shortages as the country deals with the latest wave.