The mandatory wearing of masks in hospitals and other clinical settings comes to an end today.
Masks were made compulsory in enclosed indoor spaces following the arrival of COVID-19 in Ireland three years ago.
In February last year, mask wearing on public transport and inside shops became optional and now hospitals have followed suit.
The decision was taken following the recommendation of the Health Protection Surveillance Centre, who caveated that masks should still be worn “for interaction with patients with respiratory viral symptoms".
The end of mandatory masks in hospitals is yet another sign that the salience of COVID-19 as a public health issue has waned; last month, the HSE announced that community test centres for the virus would close.
“We are making these changes now based on best available evidence in relation to managing COVID-19, recognising the high level of vaccine-induced and naturally acquired population immunity in Ireland as well as the development of new treatments, all of which are mitigating the worst impacts of COVID-19 infection,” HSE National Director for Public Health Dr John Cuddihy said.
“Testing for COVID-19 will not be necessary for the vast majority of the population.”
The HSE recommends that anyone with symptoms of COVID-19 limits their interaction with other people and remains inside until 48 hours after their symptoms have subsided.
Main image: A doctor wearing a mask. Picture by: Alamy.com