The Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC) has published a range of guidance documents outlining the infection prevention and control procedures that apply in various residential care settings. This includes the use of various types of personal protective equipment including those that might be described as facemasks. These guidance documents are available on the HPSC website at www.hpsc.ie.
The HPSC has also published specific guidance for homeless and other vulnerable group settings which is available at the following link: https://www.hpsc.ie/a-z/respiratory/coronavirus/novelcoronavirus/guidance/vulnerablegroupsguidance/COVID-19-Guidance-for-vulnerable-groups-settings.pdf
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.
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.
On 15 June, the Government and the National Transport Authority launched a national communications campaign which outlines best practice for the use of face coverings in retail outlets, on public transport and in other public locations in which it is difficult to maintain social distancing or where this distance cannot be guaranteed, and are communicating to the public about:
- who should wear face coverings
- in what settings, and how to wear and remove face coverings correctly.
Guidance on how to make and safely use face coverings is available on gov.ie/facecoverings and the HSE website.
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 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: