The Government will step up its campaign to show the public how to wear face masks properly but they will not be made mandatory, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has said.
The current advice states face coverings should be worn on public transport, while visiting older people and in spaces where it is difficult to social distance.
Mr Varadkar told RTE 2FM on Wednesday: “We recommend people wear them on public transport or shops but it is not an alternative to hand washing and hygiene measures. Masks are not a magic shield – it is not an alternative to the measures.
If you don't do it correctly it is not beneficial, it is potentially harmfulTaoiseach Leo Varadkar
“It is really important that people wear masks correctly so we’re going to step up the information campaign around that. We are forever seeing people being interviewed wearing the mask around their neck – that is exactly what you do not do.
“You wash your hands, put on the mask which covers your nose and mouth, and if you need to take it off to eat or smoke, you take off the mask and you don’t put it back on again.
“You need to wash your hands and put on a new clean mask, so we have a job, work to do around the dos and don’ts of wearing a mask. If you don’t do it correctly it is not beneficial, it is potentially harmful.”
Dr Cillian De Gascun, director of the National Virus Reference Lab, said face coverings should be worn when physical distancing cannot be maintained.
Speaking to RTE radio, he also said face coverings should be “single use” or washed at a high temperature.
He said: “In essence these things need to be single use. What we want people in the community to do is if they’re going to the shop or on public transport, when they get there, they put on the mask, sanitise their hands and do their shopping.
“When they come back out, whether to the open air or into their car, they take off the mask, put it in a bag and sanitise their hands again. If it is a cloth one, you bring it home and you wash it at 60C.”
Ireland reported nine new Covid-19 infections for two days in a row on Tuesday. The last time the daily tally was so low was at the start of the outbreak in March.
But chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan has warned it is not the time to become complacent.
He said: “While today we report nine new cases and the situation continues to improve in both Ireland and across Europe, the World Health Organisation has noted that now is not the time to take the foot off the pedal and that countries need to continue to work hard to avoid complacency and promote solidarity.”