Face masks are mandatory in retail outlets, banks, credit unions and post offices, in taxis, in bus and rail stations, on public transport and for workers in customer facing roles in cafés, bars and restaurants
Wearing a cloth face mask not only helps protect you, but also prevents people who do not know they have COVID-19 (Coronavirus) from spreading it to others.
If you wear one, you should still do the important things necessary to prevent the spread of the virus.
washing your hands properly and often
covering your mouth and nose with a tissue or your sleeve when you cough and sneeze
not touching your eyes, nose or mouth if your hands are not clean
physical distancing (keeping at least 2 metres away from other people)
ventilation (open windows and doors)
Wearing a medical grade face mask instead of a face mask is advised for greater protection against COVID-19.
There are many different types of masks available to you.
medical grade masks
Medical grade masks
A medical grade mask, if properly worn, offers greater protection than cloth masks.
A medical grade mask, also known as a surgical mask, is a three-layered, disposable mask. The masks are typically blue or white coloured, labelled as ‘medical’ and carry a CE marking.
Image: Medical grade mask
Any mask you choose should be well-fitted and worn properly.
A respirator /FFP2 mask is a multi-layered mask and has similar filtration values as a medical grade mask.
Respirators provide a tight fit around the wearer’s face and are particularly effective against aerosol transmission. If a respirator, or any face mask, is loose fitting or not worn correctly, it will not offer the same level of protection.
The National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET) recommend that medical grade or FFP2 masks are used by:
anyone over 13 years with a positive COVID-19 test result
anyone over 13 years with symptoms of COVID-19
all close contacts aged over 13 years old for 10 days
vulnerable people in indoor or crowded outdoor places
over-60s in indoor or crowded outdoor places
anyone visiting a healthcare setting or when visiting those who are vulnerable to COVID-19 in any setting
Wearing a cloth face mask in public may reduce the spread of COVID-19 in the community. It may help to reduce the spread of respiratory droplets from people infected with COVID-19. They are usually made from cotton or silk and should have at least 2 layers of fabric.
All types of masks, including cloth masks, can significantly reduce community transmission if properly made, well fitted, and appropriately worn.
Face shields and visors are generally not an appropriate type of face mask but people who might have difficulties breathing or a disability or another specific reasonable excuse may wear a face shield or visor instead of a face mask.
If you have COVID-19 or have symptoms of the virus, you must self-isolate. Do this even if you wear a face mask.
It is recommended that the following groups wear a medical grade or FFP2 mask where possible and not a cloth mask;
all individuals aged over 13 years with a positive COVID-19 test result
all individuals aged over 13 years with symptoms of COVID-19
all close contacts aged over 13 years for 10 days
When to wear a mask
Face masks must be worn in the following locations:
shops, including pharmacies
banks, credit unions and post offices
cinemas and cinema complexes
hair salons and barbers
tattoo and piercing parlours
travel agents and tour operators
laundries and dry cleaners
betting shops and bookmakers
on public transport
staff in customer facing roles in bars, restaurants and cafés
in taxis (drivers and passengers)
bus stations and rail stations
The vast majority of people are already wearing face masks in shops. Shop owners and managers of premises should engage with people entering or in their premises to inform them that they need to wear face masks and should promote compliance.
To date the Gardaí have adopted an approach of engaging with the public to educate and encourage people to abide by the measures in place and to only use enforcement as a last resort.
It is an offence for a person not to wear a face mask without reasonable excuse in respect of which a Garda may issue a fixed penalty notice of €80.
The vast majority of the public are complying and the expectation is that they will continue to do so and that penalties would only arise in very rare cases.
Face masks are made from cloth materials such as cotton, silk, or linen.
You can buy them or make them at home using items such as scarfs, t-shirts, sweatshirts, or towels.
Who should not wear one
Face masks 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 masks are a better way to protect yourself from COVID-19.
To make a cloth face mask at home:
cut two rectangles of tightly-woven cotton about 25cm x 15cm
fold and stitch the top and bottom edges
fold and stitch the side edges, leaving a gap big enough to thread elastic through
thread two 15cm lengths of elastic through the side edges and tie tight. Hair ties or string, cut longer and tied behind the head, will work
tuck elastic knots inside the edges of the mask and stitch in place for a neater finish
When to throw it out
You should throw out a cloth face mask when it:
no longer covers the nose and mouth
has stretched out or has damaged ties or straps
cannot stay on the face
has holes or tears in the fabric
How to use a cloth face mask properly
clean your hands properly before you put it on
practice using it so you are comfortable putting it on and taking it off
make sure it is made from a fabric you are comfortable wearing
cover your mouth and nose with it and make sure there are no gaps between your cloth face mask
tie it securely
carry unused masks in a sealable clean waterproof bag (for example, a ziplock bag)
carry a second similar type bag to put used masks in
touch a mask or face mask while wearing it - if you do, clean your hands properly
use a damp or wet medical mask or reuse a medical mask
lower your mask to speak, eat and smoke or vape - if you need to uncover your nose or mouth, take the mask off and put it in the bag for used masks
discard masks in public places
Taking off a cloth face mask
To take it off properly:
remove it from behind - do not touch the front of the mask
do not touch your eyes, nose, and mouth
clean your hands properly
put disposable masks in a bin straight away
Face masks for children
On a temporary basis, subject to review in mid-February 2022, the wearing of face masks will be recommended for children:
aged 9 years and over on public transport, in retail and other indoor public settings as currently required for those aged 13 and over, with exemptions as appropriate
in third class and above in primary school (guidance will issue to schools from the Department of Education on this)