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22nd Mar 2022

Leo Varadkar rules out mandatory mask wearing in face of rising Covid cases

Hugh Carr

mandatory mask wearing ireland

Nurses have called for the return of mask wearing in indoor settings.

Leo Varadkar has ruled out a return to mandatory mask wearing in indoor settings, despite rising Covid numbers across the country.

The Tanáiste made the comments following news from the HSE that 23,702 positive PCR and antigen tests were reported on Tuesday (22 March).

Over 87,000 cases of Covid have been reported in Ireland since Saint Patrick’s Day (17 March).

“I absolutely acknowledge that our hospitals are under enormous pressure at the moment, not just because of Covid,” Varadkar said in the Dáil.

“There’s also the bank holiday effect, and there’s also deferred demand.

“And the message from Government on masks is very much in line with public health advice.

“That it’s advised on public transport, and also advised in crowded indoor spaces.

“But we don’t propose to make it a criminal offence again not to do so,” the Tánaiste concluded.

The Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO) has called on the Government to reintroduce mandatory mask-wearing in crowded and indoor settings.

On Tuesday (22 March), 660 patients are without a bed in Irish hospitals.

General Secretary of the organisation Phil Ní Sheaghdha told RTÉ’s Morning Ireland that while hospitals are always under pressure after a bank holiday, its members were also reporting that the level of Covid in hospitals is “very high”.

“That puts additional pressure on an already very very busy, overcrowded system and this is leading to a lot of unsafe practices now,” she explained.

“There is a tremendous pressure now to find spaces for patients and that is leading to decisions being made that are simply unsafe.”

She also said that the number of people complying with current non-mandatory public health advice on mask-wearing needs to be higher as hospitals do not have the capacity for “any little increase in attendance”.