Compliance with face-covering guidance is not good enough, Ireland’s chief medical officer said.
The protective materials should used on public transport and in shops, official advice urged.
The next fortnight will be critical in limiting coronavirus transmission, an expert modelling its spread said.
We would like to redouble our effortsDr Tony Holohan
Dr Tony Holohan said: “Compliance has not been maybe where we would like it to be. We would like to redouble our efforts.”
The National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET) has recommended the implementation of a national communications campaign to increase compliance with recommendations on use of face-coverings.
Dr Holohan said: “The campaign will outline best practice for use of face coverings in retail outlets, on public transport and in other public locations, where it may be difficult to maintain social distancing.”
On Thursday, NPHET announced a further eight deaths and eight cases of Covid-19.
There have now been 1,703 fatalities.
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar told the Dail the Government would launch the new public information campaign about the use of face coverings, but warned they were not a “magic shield”.
Ireland must move from “should do, to must do” when it comes to the message, the World Health Organisation’s special envoy on Covid-19 has said.
Dr David Nabarro said the effectiveness of face coverings in preventing spread of coronavirus is contested among the scientific community but they should be worn on public transport due to close contact between people.
He said it was really necessary for those who worked in close proximity to others to wear the coverings.
Health Minister Simon Harris said the clear public health advice was that they should be worn on public transport and in enclosed indoor spaces like shops.
He added: “This is about behavioural change and I accept that the evidence and maybe even the messaging on this has changed over time.
“Perhaps it’s been confusing for people and perhaps it hasn’t gotten through in the clear way it needs to, so let’s be very clear starting from today, face coverings are recommended.”
Professor Philip Nolan, chair of the NPHET Irish Epidemiological Modelling Advisory Group, said the reproductive number of the virus has remained stable, between 0.4–0.8 over a number of weeks.
He said: “The next two weeks are now critical in limiting transmission, keeping the r-number low and suppressing the virus.
“It is how we interact, as we go about our daily lives more freely, that will determine whether the R-number increases.”
He said the idea that coronavirus could be completely eliminated was “absolutist”.
“Elimination from the island is an attractive-sounding strategy but not really a practical or implementable solution,” he added.