25 May 2022

Some concern in Longford at removal of restrictions as masks no longer mandatory

Some concern in Longford at removal of restrictions as masks no longer mandatory

Cystic Fibrosis patient Jillian McNulty PICTURE: SHELLEY CORCORAN

Monday was a milestone day for Ireland as the remaining Covid-19 restrictions were lifted, including the legal requirement to wear masks in any setting.

The Government decided last week, following advice from health officials, that from February 28, the wearing of masks in any setting is not mandatory, but will be advised on public transport and in healthcare settings.

And, while the news signals a near-end to what has been a long and difficult two years for all, there are some who are not so quick to remove the masks.

“I think it’s way too soon for mask removal. Covid isn’t gone away - you just need to look at the case numbers,” said local Cystic Fibrosis campaigner, Jillian McNulty, who wore masks in many public settings even before the pandemic.

“It’s shocking they’ve removed masks, social distancing and Covid passes. They should’ve waited until at least summer.

“It’s a scary time for vulnerable patients like myself. This has always been our normal but, at least with maks, social distancing, etc, it was safer.

“The fact that now people will be charged €90 per PCR is also insane. No-one can afford that, so people just don’t be tested and thus won’t isolate, so it’s going to spread more.”

Tánaiste Leo Varadkar said the removal of the majority of remaining restrictions was another “milestone” moment in the country’s journey out of the Covid-19 pandemic.

“It’s a big day for many businesses and workers as economic life begins to return to normal,” he said on Monday.

“Staff and customers who want to continue to wear a mask should of course continue to do so. We know that many people will be nervous about this latest step in our journey with Covid, especially the medically vulnerable.

“For those commuting today, you are not legally required to wear a mask on public transport anymore, however we are still recommending that you do.”

Health officials had recommended the major shift in Covid-19 rules following a meeting of the National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet), the body that guided the country’s policymakers during the long pandemic.

However, politicians and health advisers have insisted these changes do not mean that the pandemic is officially over.

“The rules on close contacts are also changing today,” Mr Varadkar confirmed.

“If you have no symptoms, you do not need to test or isolate and can continue on your business and go to work as normal. This is the case regardless of your vaccination status. The only exception is for healthcare workers who have a confirmed case in their home, they will need to take antigen tests and follow different guidance.”

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