Micheál Martin rules out return to mask mandates despite calls from medical professionals 4 months ago

Micheál Martin rules out return to mask mandates despite calls from medical professionals

"Suggesting that if we just brought in masks or something, that we could change all that, just doesn't cut it."

Micheál Martin has ruled out any return to mask mandates or working from home guidelines from Government, despite calls from medical professionals to do so.

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The Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO) and the Irish Association for Emergency Medicine (IAEM) released a joint statement on Thursday morning (31 March) saying that their members felt "like they have been thrown to the wolves".

"The situation at present is intolerable for all who work in our hospitals," said IAEM President Fergal Hickey.

"Our hospitals have been hanging together by a thread of goodwill of staff but that is about to snap."

The Taoiseach was asked to respond to the statement during an interview on Today with Claire Byrne on RTÉ Radio 1.

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"Well, first of all, we're guided all along by public health, and public health advice in relation to Covid," Martin said.

"I've been in touch with the Chief Medical Officer, and with the HSE.

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"This is a highly transmissible variant, the BA.2, much more transmissible than any variant we've witnessed before.

"Thankfully, it's not as virulent or doesn't appear to be damaging health as previous variants did."

Martin said that while ICU numbers were stable, the new variant was putting "an enormous pressure" on hospitals.

A combination of patients required to isolate and nursing homes becoming outbreak centres so patients can't be moved on has created "a perfect storm in hospitals."

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Despite this, Martin has ruled out a return to mask mandates being reintroduced in Ireland.

"Suggesting that if we just brought in masks or something, that we could change all that, just doesn't cut it," the Taoiseach said.

"The guidance is that people should wear masks, but the regulatory situation wouldn't, in my view at this stage, change the hospital pressures."

Martin said that the issue of hospitals being under pressure was part of a wider problem.

"The view from Public Health is that this variant is so transmissible that it's almost impossible to stop transmission.

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"Hopefully we are seeing some positive signals in terms of this wave of this particular variant."

Martin described the new variant as being more disruptive to society, as opposed to health.

"Essentially, the current wave does not justify the return of economic restrictions or the restrictions we had in earlier phases of Covid, that's the fundamental advice of Public Health.

"I would say to the INMO that we have to stick the centrality of advice being the Public Health advice, that is the key discipline along with infectious disease that guides us, and has guided us from the very beginning of Covid.

"I take people are entitled to articulate their positions, but the Public Health advice has to take centre stage in terms of how we respond to the Covid situation."