Wednesday, 10 February 2021

Ceisteanna (760, 854)

Richard Bruton

Ceist:

760. Deputy Richard Bruton asked the Minister for Health if there are guidelines for the type of masks which ought to be used in different settings; and if the possibility of the design of masks with a see-through panel would have advantages in allowing a more congenial form of protection. [6576/21]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Claire Kerrane

Ceist:

854. Deputy Claire Kerrane asked the Minister for Health if there are updated guidelines on the use of clear face masks and plastic face shields for those who are deaf or hard of hearing and who rely on lip reading to communicate particularly in relation to classroom and workplace settings; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6977/21]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Health)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 760 and 854 together.

The public health advice relating to COVID-19 is kept under continuous review by the National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET), by my Department and the Government. The NPHET reviews international developments as a component of their overall examination of the evolving epidemiology of Covid-19 and are informed by the international scientific evidence, and guidance by international bodies including the World Health Organization (WHO) and the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC). WHO and ECDC guidance is formulated in the context of considered appraisal of the international experience and accumulating scientific evidence in relation to COVID-19.

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 to wash hands before putting them on and after taking them off.

As you will be aware, face coverings are mandatory on public transport, including in taxis, as well as in bus and rail stations and in shops and other retail outlets, including in post offices, banks and credit unions. They are also mandatory in other indoor public spaces such as libraries, cinemas, theatres and museums. It is mandatory for employees in customer facing roles in food and beverage premises (consumption on the premises) to wear a face covering.

The use of face coverings by people is recommended in situations where physical distancing may not be possible, such as in crowded workplaces, places of worship and in busy or crowded outdoor spaces where there is significant congregation. It is also recommended to wear a face covering when visiting the homes of those who are over 70 years of age or who are medically vulnerable. You should also wear a face covering on your way to and from your table in restaurants.

Face coverings are not recommended for anyone who:

- has trouble breathing

- is unconscious or incapacitated

- is unable to remove it without help

- has special needs and who may feel upset or very uncomfortable wearing them

- needs to communicate with someone who has learning difficulties, is hard of hearing or deaf

In these cases, if the person can wear a visor, it will give them some protection. But these are the only times when you should wear a visor. Cloth face coverings are a better way to protect yourself from COVID-19.

The current advice in relation to face coverings is available at https://www2.hse.ie/conditions/coronavirus/face-masks-disposable-gloves.html and http://www.gov.ie/facecoverings/.

The Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC) has published guidance on the use of face coverings by the general public, including information on the different types of face coverings, which is available here:- https://www.hpsc.ie/a-z/respiratory/coronavirus/novelcoronavirus/guidance/infectionpreventionandcontrolguidance/ppe/useoffacemasksbythegeneralpublic/Guidance%20on%20use%20of%20face%20masks%20by%20the%20general%20public.pdf

The HPSC has also published a Brief Evidence Summary on the efficacy of visors compared with masks in the prevention of transmission of COVID-19 in non-healthcare settings, which is available here:- https://www.hpsc.ie/a-z/respiratory/coronavirus/novelcoronavirus/guidance/infectionpreventionandcontrolguidance/ppe/useoffacemasksbythegeneralpublic/Current%20evidence%20on%20the%20use%20of%20face%20coverings.pdf

The relevant Regulations in relation to face coverings which remain in place until 9 June, 2021 can be found at:

https://www.gov.ie/en/collection/1f150-view-statutory-instruments-related-to-the-covid-19-pandemic/