An infectious disease specialist has urged the Government to hammer home the message about the importance of face masks as a 'critical first step' in the new coronavirus response.
Dr Jack Lambert, Consultant in Infectious Diseases at Dublin's Mater Hospital, says current enforcement of rules around face coverings are nowhere near strong enough.
He was speaking as the Government today prepares to unveil its new medium-term COVID-19 plan, outlining how restrictions will work over the next nine months.
Dr Lambert says a new plan is needed - but that people need clear guidance.
He said: "Even as of yesterday people aren't wearing masks, when there's big signs outside that it's a legal requirement that you must wear a mask going into a premise.
"My opinion is if you know that, and you infect somebody as a result of not wearing a mask and kill them... that's manslaughter.
"We need to take this seriously: this is a lethal virus. But the solution is not 'lockdown, lockdown, lockdown'. There are lots of solutions - the reason we're in this threat of lockdown is a failure to comply with appropriate behaviour, or people have let down their guard."
He said if he was driving a bus and someone refused to wear a mask, he would "stop the bus, pull it over, put the red lights on and call the gardaí".
'Shameful lack of seriousness'
Dr Lambert says he also 'shakes his head' seeing some of the scenes out in public.
He observed: "I go into the restaurants or hotels... I'm getting served by someone who has their mask around their chin. That's not protecting me or them from the spread of COVID from their mouth or their nose.
"I think it's shameful the lack of seriousness that some people are taking towards this, and also the lack of guidance we're getting and the lack of enforcement.
"We know what to do - we're not doing it, and as a consequence we're facing lockdown."
Dr Lambert suggested we need 'role models' and a national campaign to really push home the message about the importance of face masks.
He said: "We know face masks work for respiratory diseases. Let's just get that message across - make it very clear. There's no shortage of face masks or face coverings. That's a critical first step.
"If we did that over the next month and really enforced it - at every level from schools to creches, to hospitals and in the community... then I think we wouldn't be in the situation of having these lockdowns that are going to be proposed."