I propose to take Questions Nos. 651 and 714 together.
The National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET) continues to examine all emerging evidence as it arises and has provided advice relating to face coverings on an ongoing basis.
NPHET advises the wearing of a non-medical face covering in a number of circumstances which include:
- when on public transport
- when in indoor public areas including retail outlets
- by people visiting the homes of those who are cocooning
- by people who are being visited in their homes by those who are cocooning
- all visitors to residential care facilities and
- in indoor work environments where it is difficult to maintain a two-metre distance
Individual judgement or preference should be used to consider the wearing of face coverings in other environments.
Cloth face coverings are not recommended for children under the age of 13. This is because young children may not follow advice about wearing a mask correctly and avoiding touching it.
It is important to emphasise that the wearing of face coverings is an additional hygiene measure and should not take the place of good hand hygiene, respiratory etiquette and other personal protective public health measures. Face coverings should be used properly, in line with the guidance and to wash hands before putting them on and taking them off.
From 29 June 2020, as part of Phase 3 of the Roadmap to Reopening Society and Business, a wide range of businesses and services can now open or recommence including summer camps and dance schools. See https://www.gov.ie/pdf/?file=https://assets.gov.ie/77452/39d51b02-5633-4e2f-a070-4551a3521081.pdf# for further information. Organisers of any such activities are advised to consult the latest public health advice, available on the websites below, which are updated on a regular basis:
Public health advice regarding children is available at https://www2.hse.ie/conditions/coronavirus/protecting-your-child.html
The Department of Children and Youth Affairs has developed Guidance for Youth Organisations on Resuming Full Services after COVID-19 which is available at the following link: https://www.gov.ie/en/publication/58393-guidance-for-youth-organisations-on-resuming-full-services-after-covid-19/
You may also wish to note that during Phase 3 indoor gatherings of up to 50 people and outdoor gatherings of up to 200 people when conducted in line with public health advice are permissible.
The Return to Work Safely Protocol, published by the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation, may apply in circumstances involving summer camps. It provides detailed guidance which was developed to assist employers and employees in the coming period. The protocol is available at https://dbei.gov.ie/en/Publications/Return-to-Work-Safely-Protocol.html. The Protocol is mandatory and it applies to all workplaces right across the economy. Specific sectors may need to introduce additional safeguards, but this document sets the standard set of measures required in every workplace.
As I am sure the Deputy can appreciate, the evidence relating to the SARS-CoV-2 virus and the discussion around face coverings, masks and shields is constantly evolving. I can assure you that the public health advice relating to Covid-19 is kept under continuing review by the National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET). The Expert Advisory Group (EAG) of the NPHET has also been proactively examining all relevant evidence relating to the virus and the issue of face coverings. The EAG has requested the Health Information and Quality Authority to prepare a revised and updated evidence synthesis on face coverings and I have been informed that this paper is expected to be finalised shortly.
The latest public health advice on face coverings is available at the following links and is updated on a regular basis: