Do I have to wear a face mask in public?

Many people are wearing face masks now due to COVID-19, here is some advice on how and where you should use them
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Face masks are being used at the moment to help stop the spread of COVID-19 (Coronavirus). They can help stop someone who doesn’t know they have the virus spreading it to other people. The government has put together some guidelines as to when you should use face masks and how they should be worn.

Do I have to wear a face mask?

It is suggested that you wear a face mask when you are in places where it is difficult for you to practice social distancing by staying 2 metres away from other people.

In Ireland, it is mandatory to wear a face covering in the following places, which means you have to do it:

  • On public transport
  • In shops and shopping centres
  • Libraries
  • Cinemas and cinema complexes
  • Theatres
  • Concert halls
  • Bingo halls
  • Museums
  • Services such as hairdressers, nail care/styling, tattoo or piercings
  • Travel Agents
  • Laundries/Dry Cleaners
  • Betting shops 

If you have trouble breathing, or you are unable to remove the mask by yourself, it’s better not to wear one. The same applies for anyone under the age of 13, or people with special needs who feel upset or uncomfortable when wearing a mask.

What will happen if I refuse to wear a mask?

If you refuse to wear a face covering in any of the places or services listed above, including shops, shopping centres, libraries, cinemas, theatres, concert halls, hairdressers or museums, you could be facing:

  • A fine of up to €2,500
  • Up to 6 months imprisonment
  • Both a fine and imprisonment

If you do not wear a mask on public transport or refuse to put one on when asked you could face: 

  • A fine of up to €2,500
  • Up to 6 months imprisonment

By not wearing a mask, you are increasing the risk of spreading COVID-19 and putting yourself and others at risk of getting the virus.

How much protection does a face mask offer?

Face masks may help to reduce the spread of infection by reducing the spread of droplets that could be carrying the virus. By wearing a face mask, you are less likely to pass the virus on to someone else if you have been infected but have not started showing symptoms.

However, face masks do not work on their own, and it is only effective if you follow the other guidelines that the Government has issued during this pandemic, including

  • Washing your hands regularly with soap and water
  • Following social distancing guidelines by staying at least 2 metres apart from others
  • Covering your nose and mouth when you cough or sneeze

What kind of face mask should I wear?

It is really important that frontline staff, including medical workers, do not run out of masks. That’s why the public have been asked to use cloth face coverings, which covers your nose and mouth, instead of medical masks.

How to make a face mask

You can make your own face covering at home from t-shirts, scarves or towels. Medical face masks should only be worn by healthcare workers as we need to make sure there are as many as possible available for them to use.

How to use a face mask correctly

Here are some important points on safely wearing a face mask.

Things to do when putting on a face mask:

  • Wash your hands properly before putting the mask on
  • Practice using it so you get used to taking it on and off
  • Make sure the material you use is comfortable to wear
  • Cover your nose and mouth and make sure there are no gaps
  • Carry unused face coverings in a clean waterproof bag that you can close with a seal, for example, a ziplock bag
  • Carry a second similar type bag to put used face coverings in

Things to avoid:

  • Do not touch a face covering while wearing it – if you do, clean your hands properly.
  • Do not use a wet or stained face covering.
  • Do not share face coverings with friends or family.
  • Do not lower your face coverings to speak, eat, smoke or vape – if you need to uncover your nose or mouth take the face covering off and put it in the bag for used face coverings
  • Do not get rid of face coverings in public places.

How do I take off my face mask?

  • Take it off from your ears or the back of your head if it is tied – do not touch the front of the mask
  • Put in a sealable clean waterproof bag or wash immediately – put disposable masks in a bin straight away
  • Clean your hands properly

Should I wear disposable gloves?

It might be tempting to wear disposable gloves when you’re outside or doing the shopping, but they do not offer much protection. This is because the virus can get on the gloves in the same way it gets on your hands, making it unsafe when you take them off.

Disposable gloves are worn in medical settings by healthcare workers. They do not work as well in our daily lives. Wearing disposable gloves can make you feel you are protected even when they are not being used safely.

The most effective way to protect yourself is to wash your hands regularly with soap and water, especially when you come in from outside or from the shops.

Need more information?

Would you like more information? Maybe you would like to talk through your own situation? Get in touch through our online chat system for 16 to 25 year olds – Monday to Friday from 4pm to 8pm.

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