Masks will become mandatory on public transport from Monday, the Taoiseach has said.
Since Monday June 30, people have been advised to wear face coverings on public transport but there has been no enforcement of the rule.
It comes as Ireland’s coronavirus reproductive number increased to one and more cases linked to travel have been imported.
Speaking in Dublin on Friday, Micheal Martin said regulations enforcing the wearing of face coverings on public transport will come into effect on Monday.
He said: “If you look back at our experience throughout Covid-19, it has been about compliance and engaging people to come with us. The National Transport Authority will now have the authority and the capacity to say to people that you may not come on if you’re not wearing a mask.”
“Of course if people persist in disobeying then the gardai will be called but we don’t envisage that being necessary.”
Mr Martin said he is concerned about breaches of coronavirus regulations in pubs and said gardai will be on patrol this weekend to ensure there is compliance.
“We want to prevent a reoccurrence of what happened last weekend. I would appeal to people to comply. It has been a difficult journey for people but as we have reopened the responsibility is on us all personally and as groups to just behave responsibly, particularly in terms of gatherings and social distance. This is a very dangerous virus and it can damage people’s health for quite a long time – it is not something to be taken lightly.”
Separately, the Special Oireachtas Covid-19 committee heard levels of “institutional racism and discrimination” in the health service led to a serious data breach when employers were told of coronavirus test results before meat factory workers who were tested.
Edel McGinley, director of the Migrant Rights Centre Ireland (MRCI), described the practice as a “gross and serious breach of confidentiality”.
She told the committee that comments made by a senior health official about the scandal were “deeply worrying”.
In May, it was revealed that workers’ test results were being shared first with employers before workers themselves.
The incidents relate to widespread screening of meat factory workers, with public health officials alerting employers in the first instance in an effort to trigger prompt infection control steps.
When the practice was made public, the HSE said it would end.
However, Ms McGinley said it remains “unclear” if new guidelines or training have been issued for staff who are carrying out contact tracing in factories.
She added: “Deeply worrying are the revelations made by director of public health in the mid-west, Dr Mai Mannix, while speaking at an HSE briefing on June 5.
“Her comments reveal a level of institutional racism and discrimination that led to this very serious data breach.”
Dr Mannix had been speaking about the length of time it took to contact people who do not speak English.
This undermines trust in the HSE, leaving workers and their families exposed, and without accessible information to isolate if necessaryEdel McGinley, Migrant Rights Centre Ireland
Ms McGinley claimed that the doctor referred to workers impacted as “these types of people”.
Ms McGinley claimed these comments discriminate against people from a migrant background and are in breach of their public sector duty.
“This undermines trust in the HSE, leaving workers and their families exposed, and without accessible information to isolate if necessary,” she added.
Irish meat factories have been hit with clusters of cases, with more than 800 workers infected with the virus so far.
Research carried out by MRCI reveal that almost half of workers feel that their employers do not enforce Covid-19 safety measures, while 48% said there are still not sufficient measures in place.
The report also found that in workplaces with clusters, just 30% of workers felt their employers took effective action to keep them safe, with 67% claiming their employer had not done enough to prioritise their safety.
Ms McGinley called for a taskforce to be set up to look at the terms and conditions for workers.
She also raised issues around work permits, describing how difficult it is for workers to assert their rights.
“Workers report to us that they cannot choose not to come to work if ill, or seek improved conditions for fear of losing their employment permit and immigration status,” Ms McGinley added.
Labour TD Duncan Smith said the meat processing factories are the “largest systemic work exploitation” in the State.
Brid McKeown of MRCI said: “Of the people we spoke to, 15% didn’t have contracts, 9% weren’t sure if they had contracts and a further 13% said their contracts didn’t reflect their terms and conditions.
“We have heard recent reports that over the last two years, workers are being given new contracts on the factory floor and told to sign them. The contracts are in English and they haven’t been translated or explained and (they) are intimidated when there is resistance to sign contracts.
“Migrant workers are extremely poorly treated, there is a day-to-day lack of respect and value bestowed and a huge lack of trust from workers.”
The main nationalities are Polish, Lithuanian, Romanian, Latvian, Moldovan, Slovakian, Brazilian, South African, Botswanan and Filipino.
Workers also reported to the MRCI that EU and non-EU migrant workers are over-represented on the factory floors, meaning they are on lower paid jobs.
One more coronavirus related death has been confirmed in Ireland bringing the death toll to 1,744, the National Public Health Emergency Team said. An additional 25 cases have been confirmed bringing the total number of cases to 25,589.
The HSE has been contacted for comment. It is understood that HSE officials dispute Ms McGinley’s claim that Dr Mannix used the comment “these types of people”.