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Face masks advised to be worn on public transport & when shopping from Monday

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*This article has been updated to clarify that face masks are an advisory measure only

From Monday, it is being advised that face masks be worn by anyone using public transport or in enclosed indoor public areas such as shops.

Phase one of the of the Roadmap for Reopening Society and Business will commence on Monday, the Government has confirmed following a meeting of Cabinet on Friday. It follows advice from the National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET).

Travelling will be permitted on Monday in instances when someone is travelling to work when their place of employment is open and they are unable to work from home. Journeys are also allowed for shopping, exercising within 5km of a person’s home, for medical reasons or to care for others and to meet friends and family within 5km of one’s home in groups of four or less.

Older people and those who are cocooning should continue to stay at home, except for outdoor exercise within 5km of their home.

As part of Phase 1, members of the public are advised to wear a face covering from Monday as an additional hygiene measure. This is to be done when using public transport or in enclosed indoor public areas such as retail outlets. The recommendation is not a legal requirement but has been advised by senior health officials. It does not apply to individuals under the age of 13.

“It is an additional hygiene measure, it is not a magic bullet,” Chief Medical Officer, Dr Tony Holohan said of the new recommendation. He stressed that all current advice such as washing hands, coughing etiquette and physical distancing must be maintained.

Construction workers, gardeners and individuals tending to allotments can return to work on Monday, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar (FG) confirmed. Hardware stores, builders merchants and those providing essential supplies and tools for gardening, farming and agriculture; garden centres and farmers markets; Opticians/Optometrists/Outlets providing hearing test services, selling hearing aids and appliances; retailers involved in the sale, supply and repair of motor vehicles, motorcycles and bicycles and related facilities (e.g. tyre sales and repairs); office products and services; electrical, IT and phone sales, repair and maintenance services for home are all permitted to open on Monday. This does not include homeware stores.

“Some more stores will reopen and you will be able to shop again in garden centres, hardware stores, and farmers’ markets, or get your eyes tested or your car, motorbike or bicycle fixed. As part of your daily exercise you will be able to play a game of tennis, or a round of golf, exercise and fitness classes outdoors in small groups of up to four people, once you don’t travel beyond 5 km to do so. Some public amenities such as public beaches and mountain walks will reopen. In every single case it is vital that we maintain a physical distance of 2 metres,” he stated.

During Phase 1, it is intended that customers should restrict visits to such stores for essential supplies. All retailers are encouraged to continue to provide on-line services where that is possible and appropriate to minimise footfall. All of these outlets must implement physical distancing measures and measures set out in the Return to Work Safely Protocol.

Businesses that do not comply with guidance are at risk of prosecution, the Taoiseach warned.

Outdoor sports and fitness activities in groups of no more than four are permitted within 5km of your home and providing there is no physical contact

School and college buildings may reopen for teachers and lecturers to facilitate remote learning

In reaching its decision, the Government also considered the social and economic implications of the COVID-19 restrictions, and was briefed by the Minister for Health, Simon Harris (FG) on the latest data regarding the progression of COVID-19 in the community and the capacity of our health service.

Páraic McMahon is Head of News & Sport with The Clare Echo. The Newmarket-on-Fergus native also writes for national papers including The Irish Examiner, The Irish Independent and The Irish Times along with doing work for RTÉ, Today FM, TheJournal.ie and The42.ie. A graduate of Mary Immaculate College, Páraic was previously employed by The Clare Herald and Clare FM. If you have a story, tip or some feedback for him then send an email to - paraic@clareecho.ie

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