*Darragh O’Connor and Siobhán Walsh pictured dumping a face mask outside O’Connor’s Spar in Shannon. Photograph: Joe Buckley

MIXED VIEWS have been expressed from retailers regarding the lifting of the mask mandate.

As of Monday, the wearing of masks in retail settings and on public transport is no longer mandatory. Public health measures in schools including masks, pods and staggered arrival times have also come to an end, almost two years to the day since the first case of COVID-19 was confirmed in Ireland.

Speaking to The Clare Echo, Darragh O’Connor from O’Connor’s Texaco in Shannon explained that they have an optional approach on masks for both staff and shoppers, a custom replicated right across the county. “What we’re doing is not forcing anyone to wear masks, nobody will be frowned upon if they are wearing them or not. Between customers and staff, there is obligation on people in the shop to wear them. COVID is still out there”.

Darragh recalled that one man visiting the shop on Monday took a double take when he saw staff without masks, he had forgot about the lifting of the mandate and dumped his own mask in the bin upon leaving the store.

There was one clear trend evident according to the Shannon man, “The brainier of the species, the women are still wearing them and the males have them dumped”.

Masks may be optional in stores but Darragh outlined that they would continue to leave Perspex screens in front of the staff “not only because of COVID but it has added a new layer of protection from the till that wasn’t there before”.

Lahinch hotelier, Michael Vaughan admitted that a cautious reaction has been evident from the public in the seaside town. “The older generation and retired people seem to be more cautious about wearing masks and continue to wear them. However whether it is going into a hardware store or the grocery store for the rest of the population, the masks seem to be gone. In the church, people at mass are generally wearing them, they would be encouraged to do so as people in their later years in life feel it isn’t time to fully lift the wearing of masks”.

From the hospitality perspective, he said it will be optional for his staff at Vaughan Lodge Hotel to wear a mask or not. “Some of my own team have said they will continue to wear them, I’m not sure how it will work with some wearing them and others not, this is the living with COVID we had spoken about and I won’t be wearing my mask while I’m working,” he confirmed.

There is debate in hospitality on whether buffer breakfasts will return, Vaughan outlined. The biggest situation faced by hotels and restaurants presently is securing skilled staff, “it is proving almost impossible,” he told The Clare Echo. “We have been advertising for positions for the last few months but the only places available seem to be outside the EU, this is going to be a difficult summer for traders in getting the type of help they need, I think there is going to be a curtailment of services, cafés and restaurants may open less hours or days of the week as a result”.


One West Clare woman manning the till of a busy store told The Clare Echo that the majority of people passing through their doors continued to wear their mask.

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Subscribe for just €3 per month

If you’re here, you care about County Clare. So do we. Did you rely on us for Covid-19 updates, follow our election coverage, or visit The Clare Echo every week for breaking news and sport? The Clare Echo invests in local journalism and we want to safeguard its future in our county. By becoming a subscriber you are supporting what we do, will receive access to all our premium articles and a better experience, while helping us improve our offering to you. Subscribe to clareecho.ie and get the first six months for just €3 a month (less than 75c per week), and thereafter €8 per month. Cancel anytime, limited time offer. T&Cs Apply. www.clareecho.ie.

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