Masks are not necessary for most people outside, says Longford GP

Incorrect usage of PPEs can actually cause the transmission of the virus, says local GP

Jessica Thompson


Jessica Thompson


Dr Padraig McGarry

Dr Padraig McGarry

As Ireland gets used to what can only be described as a full lockdown, despite the Taoiseach’s reluctance to use that term, there are more and more people wearing masks and gloves when out in public at the shops or while exercising.

But the coronavirus isn’t airborne, so wearing a mask while out in the open air is a complete waste of a mask, according to local GP and president of the IMO Dr Padraig McGarry.

“For the vast majority of people wearing masks around, it is a totally pointless exercise,” Dr McGarry told the Longford Leader.

“A totally pointless exercise, because that is not how it’s going to be caught. And oftentimes what happens is you see people wearing masks and they’re wearing them incorrectly, because they pull them down over their face.

“If they happen to have covid viruses on the masks and they pull it down, they’re actually introducing it to their face.

“I’ve seen some people with very elaborate masks and other healthcare workers not having any at all. That is an appalling thing.”

Last week, Midlands Regional Hospital, Mullingar, put a call out to small businesses and enterprises that may have access to a supply of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) to consider donating it to the hospital, as masks, gloves, eye protection and other protective gear was running low.

Read also: ‘Incremental measures can amount to a huge impact’, when preventing the spread of Coronavirus says Longford GP

“GPs were all given an assignment for our PPEs last week,” said Dr McGarry.

“We have a facility whereby if we need them, we can reorder stock as they go down and at the moment, concerning General Practice, there does not appear to be an issue in relation to PPEs at this moment in time.

“But as the situation progresses, and perhaps it might be more difficult to source them, that may change but at the moment, we don’t have that situation.”

But, he added, while there is a large consignment of supplies coming in from China, it is important that those who do have masks are aware of how to use them correctly, and to avoid wasting them.

“People are using PPEs, gloves and masks, and they actually don’t understand what they have to do,” said Dr McGarry.

“In fact, if you were to think of one aspect of this that the Chief Medical Officer Tony Holohan and Chief Clinical Officer Colm Henry have highlighted again and again, the most important mode of transmission is through hands.

“By washing with soapy water, you kill off the lipid wall of the virus. It’s probably the single most effective protective mechanism that can be used.

“If people were to use the alcohol gels and the soapy water, cleanse, cleanse, wash hands, wash hands, wash hands, it’s the most significant thing that people on the street can do,” he added.

“But you see ridiculous sights of people with masks up around their head and they’re putting them up their nose and they’re touching them.

“The biggest risk you have for transmission is if you have a mask on and you touch it with your hand, you possibly then can transmit it through your face and touching your face is the biggest risk of transmission.

“So washing the hands, using the alcohol gel and trying to avoid touching your face is the most important protective aspect of this.”

That and social distancing, he added. With so many people now isolating in their homes, the country is taking the best action against this virus to drive it out of the community.

At the time of going to print, the total number of confirmed cases in Ireland was 2,910, with 10 of those cases located in Longford.

A total of 54 patients had passed away from the virus as of Tuesday afternoon, with the death toll rising daily.

For more up-to-date figures see the Longford Leader website at

Read also: ‘The measures that people take themselves will be important’, says Longford GP of Covid-19 fight