Scientific experts responsible for advising the Government on its Covid-19 response recommended against the use of cloth face masks by the public as it was deemed ineffective and harmful.
While the Government’s Expert Advisory Group on the pandemic recommended the use of “medical face masks” in public transport and shops where “physical distancing cannot be maintained.”
However, this advice was not implemented due to concerns over the effect this might have on the supply of masks for healthcare workers, according to the minutes of the National Public Health Emergency Team.
The Government therefore approved the subsequent recommendation from NPHET and from last Monday, the wearing of “face coverings” which includes, home-made and cloth versions. Which has been recommended for locations such as shops and public transport.
According to NPHET minutes from May 1, the Expert Advisory Group Chairman, Dr Cillian de Gascun said that the recommended guidance should be made available to the public explaining the appropriate use of a medical face mask.
Consideration should be given as to how this recommendations could be equitably implemented, as requiring people to buy their own masks could “exacerbate” health inequalities, he said.
The group recommended the public be advised that medical face-masks and respirator masks should be prioritised for healthcare workers and that the recommendation could only be made if “sufficient confidence” existed in their availability for the foreseeable future.
The group also recommended against the wearing of latex or nitrile gloves as these could increase the risk of transmitting Covid-19 if worn inappropriately for long periods.
According to the minutes of NPHET, which noted the “caveat” from Dr de Gascun’s group about the availability of medical face-masks and discussed the need to increase the indigenous supply of all grades of masks.
The meetings agreed to,
“applying the precautionary principle,” to recommend the use of “face coverings.” in the community as part of the reduction of public health social distancing measures.