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Expert says evidence for homemade masks to prevent Covid spread ‘not fantastic’

It is not mandatory to wear masks or face coverings in public, but people are advised to wear them on public transport

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A couple wearing face masks shopping in Dublin’s Henry Street (Niall Carson/PA)

A couple wearing face masks shopping in Dublin’s Henry Street (Niall Carson/PA)

A couple wearing face masks shopping in Dublin’s Henry Street (Niall Carson/PA)

The evidence for wearing homemade masks to prevent the spread of Covid-19 is “not fantastic”, a health expert has said.

It comes as Ireland’s chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan urged more people to wear face masks in public.

Dr Cillian De Gascun, chair of the National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET) Expert Advisory Group told the Covid-19 committee, the public have not been wearing face coverings or masks as much as the public health team would have expected.

He said while medical grade masks should be kept for healthcare professionals, cloth or homemade masks are an alternative but they may not provide the same protection.

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People wearing facemasks queuing outside Ikea in Dublin as the next phase of Ireland’s Covid-19 lockdown exit begins (Niall Carson/PA)

People wearing facemasks queuing outside Ikea in Dublin as the next phase of Ireland’s Covid-19 lockdown exit begins (Niall Carson/PA)

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People wearing facemasks queuing outside Ikea in Dublin as the next phase of Ireland’s Covid-19 lockdown exit begins (Niall Carson/PA)

He said: “The problem with cloth masks or homemade masks – the strength of evidence for those is not fantastic, but we still recommend them in a setting where physical distancing cannot be maintained.”

It is not mandatory to wear masks or face coverings in public, but people are advised to wear them on public transport, while visiting older people and in places where social distancing is made difficult.

Dr De Gascun said: “There is a reluctance to make things mandatory as a first port of call, but I would accept the observation that the uptake has not been as good as we would have expected over the last couple of weeks.”

He said capacity should be ramped up now to ensure face coverings are made for the public as some people cannot afford to make them at home.

He said: “We know there is an inequity where perhaps people cannot afford to purchase face masks or are not in a position to make them.”

Labour TD Duncan Smith said: “The whole make-and-do links on the Government website isn’t appropriate, we need stronger action.”

Dr De Gascun said: “We know there are significant global shortages of masks and PPE so the priority is to preserve the medical grade masks for health staff, but there is time now to prepare and scale up manufacturing capacity to supply face coverings to households.”

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