On Thursday we asked readers if the current requirement for face masks to be worn in certain places in Ireland should remain or be discontinued.
The issue has generated increased debate recently, with medical professionals, politicians and commentators differing on whether masks should continue to be mandatory – particularly in retail outlets and public transport. Primary and secondary school children wearing face coverings in class has also provoked much debate.
Thank you to everyone who sent in their views on the subject – here is a selection of the submissions.
‘I need to feed my family’
"I am strongly against the removal of the mask rules in shops. I have a one-year-old baby. He is too young to be vaccinated against Covid. If everyone removes their masks, how am I going to protect him? I'm already struggling to keep people at a safe distance because nobody cares about social distancing. It's one thing from the Government to not care about unvaccinated adults, but what about newborns and babies? Since Covid began, being pregnant and then having a newborn, I completely stopped going in restaurants or cinemas or things like that. I don't mind if masks are removed in leisure places because going there as a customer is a choice. But I need to be able to go to the grocery store safely, I need to feed my family, on that, I do not have a choice."
- Diane, Co Louth
‘I’ll be happy to ditch the masks’
"I think it is high time these now unnecessary mandates are lifted and people are trusted to take responsibility for their own decisions. I personally will be happy to ditch the masks, but am obviously not looking for a ban on them, everyone should be allowed make up their own minds."
- Cuan, Co Dublin
‘I feel masks should still be worn’
"Covid hasn't gone away. We still have 8,000-9,000 cases per day. Although most people will get a mild dose of Covid, there is no guarantee of that. I feel masks should still be worn in indoor settings, hospitals , nursing homes and public transport. For people that complain about mask-wearing, I ask this question: Would you want your surgeon operating on you or the theatre staff in your surgery to go maskless because it's too hot, or uncomfortable?
- Mary, Co Offaly
‘If we don’t do it now, then when?’
"Delighted to hear about easing of face masks. If we don't do it now, then when? There is no compelling reason for retaining masks at this stage and any marginal gains must be weighed against the social costs, particularly for schoolchildren. Keeping masks in hospitals makes sense, and maybe keeping visitor numbers limited should be a long-term strategy. But otherwise time to move on."
- David, Co Dublin
‘Forced to stay indoors’
"The infection rate is too high for the removal of mandatory face masks in shops and public transport. The over-60s and other vulnerable people will be forced to stay indoors as the close-contact rules have already been relaxed. It seems as if this group are not important. Guidance is useless, it will not protect me or other vulnerable people. The removal will mislead people into believing that it is safe, which is not true. Also, what about the people who work in retail?"
- Marion, Co Louth
‘Good to get back to normal’
"I'm happy to see the mask restrictions mostly removed. Covid and the restrictions have understandably generated a lot of fear among some people, particularly the old and the vulnerable. Despite being one of the most vaccinated countries in the world, Omicron has spread rapidly. Thankfully, the numbers in hospital are low. Therefore, I would see dropping the masks in schools as very welcome as I feel it impacts the learning and development experience. I'm happy to continue wearing a mask on transport if it makes others more comfortable, but I see no reason for this in supermarkets, given that pubs and restaurants are fully open. Good to get back to normal again after two years."
- Stiofán, Co Dublin
‘I feel it will lead to terrible conflict’
"I think the mask mandate should be kept while case numbers remain high. I will continue to wear masks in shops and on public transport, regardless of what decision is made. I also think it would be quite reckless of Government to remove the mandate now as I feel it will lead to terrible conflict in shops, on public transport and in workplaces. Wearing a mask in crowded indoor settings seems quite sensible to me while case numbers remain stubbornly high."
- Frank, Co Dublin
‘They look awful’
"It's about bloody time. Those masks are disgusting on all levels, people reuse them which in itself is unhygienic and can cause other illnesses. You find them littered everywhere, but most of all they look awful and make it so difficult to communicate and smile at people, or enjoy the humanity and attractions we see in other people's faces. Wash your hands, be hygienically responsible, and get rid of those useless god-awful masks, and never introduce them again."
- Peter, Co Dublin
‘Going out will be riskier’
"Mask-wearing reduces spread to some extent, mainly by reducing spread by wearers. In spite of that there are very large numbers sick, in hospital and dying which is being glossed over now. Removing mask mandates will increase those numbers, as will waning immunity. Going out, even to the supermarket, will be riskier. Discretionary socialising and attending cultural and leisure events will be even more risky because of longer contact times. More people will develop symptoms and should isolate, so more will be in isolation at any time or increasingly will not isolate so will make public spaces more risky. This is what is described as 'living with Covid'. The risk of dying from Covid is quite low for those without underlying conditions and who are under 65. However, a huge proportion of the population will have to 'live' with a much greater risk every time they leave their homes, if they can take that risk. This will result in a reduction in quality of life and an inevitable increase in anxiety and depression for nearly a fifth of us. This is the modern way I realise, but has the cost of reduced economic activity as the vulnerable avoid risk been considered as well as the cost of increased need for mental health services?"
- Bríd, Co Dublin
‘The mask allows people to hide’
"It is about time we removed the masks, in my opinion, people have begun to cling to them as a crutch. From personal experience, most who wear them do it out of: a) habit, b) worried about fines/trouble, c) it is a 'nice' thing to do. They have become a symbol, people wear them to appear conscientious, everyone wants to seem nice and agreeable. The mental health crisis in this country has been a major issue for years, the mask allows people to hide in a sense, so it's understandable some want to continue. We can not keep cowering to fear and social norms. I have been to London, Florida and a couple other places and there are no masks, everything was fine. They remain a reminder of fear and subservience, they must go."
- Ruairí, Co Meath
‘The virus is still rampant’
"My mother was recently diagnosed with an aggressive form of lung cancer and is receiving chemotherapy as part of her treatment. As a result, her immune system is impaired, making her vulnerable to viruses. In order to protect her, as a family we'll continue to socially distance, wear face masks in enclosed environments, including retail settings and, in particular, public transport. We are also taking daily antigen tests in an effort to keep Covid out of our home. No, I do not think it's time yet to stop using face masks in shops and public transport. The virus is still rampant with variants still appearing. I will continue to wear a medical grade face mask. Not as beneficial as if everybody wore face masks, but still better than nobody wearing face masks I suppose."
- Orla, Co Dublin
‘It’s the logical next step’
"I'm a little bit nervous about the prospect of non-mandatory mask-wearing, but I think it's the logical next step in regard to moving towards normality. It will also be easier to concentrate in lecture halls and to communicate with my peers and lecturers better. I think by this point we need to have faith in our vaccine programme and we have to begin to move towards some sort of pre-Covid normality. However, should a new deadly variant emerge in the future, then I hope that masks will be made compulsory once again in many settings (including schools and colleges)."
- Adam, Co Dublin
‘Let’s not make the same mistake again’
"The vaccination programme has worked well, but so many people can still become very ill because of underlying health issues. Vaccination, coupled with the mask-wearing mandate, is keeping many people safe and allows everyone to have a new normal life. I believe that many people who currently go to shops, restaurants, etc, will move to buy more online and cease going to restaurants, etc, if the mask mandate is removed. In my opinion, particularly given the very high level of Covid circulating in Ireland and throughout the world, it is far too early to consider removing the mask mandate. Ireland made a terribly sad mistake regarding mask-wearing in 2020. Let's not make the same mistake again."
- Noel, Co Louth
‘Have some understanding for blind or deaf people’
"I'm legally blind and I find masks obscure my vision so much with fog. It means that shopping or travelling is now impossible without assistance. I feel infantilised. All the anti-fog measures don't work. I've been legally blind my whole life and found no solution to glasses fog. Walking around with a mask with my vision fogged is dangerous, more dangerous than Covid to me. I understand people feel safe with masks, so give them space to wear them, but they should not be mandatory. Please have some understanding for blind or deaf people who have been ignored and left behind by this pandemic."
- Rachel, Co Dublin
‘Kids are not little porcelain dolls’
"I and my family will still be wearing a mask in public. My teenage son has cystic fibrosis, diabetes, an enlarged spleen and has had a liver transplant. He missed a year and a half at school, and more recently just returned to school this week after being at home since Christmas. What are our vulnerable citizens supposed to do? Stay home and have no life for another unpredictable length of time? Removing the face-mask mandate will certainly lead to another spike in Covid infections. I am particularly fed up with parents complaining about children having to wear face masks at school. Give me a break. Kids are robust and not little porcelain dolls; they're not exactly being asked to live in a war-torn country where kids live under truly traumatic and extreme conditions. They will get over this period in their lives; my son may not if he is infected."
- Evelyn, Co Cork
‘Majority of people feel protected enough’
"Excited. About time, in my opinion. If people want to continue to wear face masks then fine but don't mandate to make others wear them when they don't want too. I believe the majority of people feel protected enough as a result of the vaccine and prior infection. The masks at this moment is just an optic to make people think they're safer than they are."
- Kevin, Co Dublin
‘They’re no harm’
"I'll keep wearing them. I'd appreciate keeping masks on public transport and in supermarkets. They've been dispensed with in pubs and clubs and restaurants, and that's fine/wonderful, but people can avoid those places – some public spaces are unavoidable. I hope we'll keep wearing them in lectures and the library too, they're no harm and I don't want to miss college over one student in 100 coming in and infecting half the class because no one was wearing masks."
- Colm, Co Cork
‘Masks should be last thing to go’
"I have listened to experts since the start of the pandemic, so won't stop now. I am an English teacher so it would be tremendously arrogant to think I knew better than the experts. From early on masks have been shown to work very well, with huge benefit in prevention of spread of this airborne virus, with little inconvenience. So, I do fear this decision is based more on politics than science. For me, masks should be the very last thing to go, and since Covid hasn't really gone, they shouldn't either. Making them advisory will render them redundant, as the evidence has shown that masks work best when all wear them, much like seatbelts. With this attitude, why not make more laws advisory? We can keep masks and remove the rest, as masks provide that peace of mind and security of knowing you are not helping the spread and risking bringing anything home."
- Ruairí, Co Kildare
"I'm concerned about young babies and toddlers who can't wear masks or get vaccinated." - Andrea
"I think it would be the right decision and it should remain optional in all environments." - Juan
"The numbers are still very high, so I don't think now is the time to make masks optional." - Mary
"I am a type 1 diabetic. I am really scared and no way will I be in any indoor situation with others without my mask, probably for many months or even years until this virus is totally dealt with like TB or Polio." - Jane
"As I have a seriously compromised immune system I am extremely concerned at the high incidence of disregard for social distancing in general in Greystones throughout the entire pandemic." - David
"I think it's an important commonsensical decision. If there is a more serious public health risk in the future, the notion that measures are for the period of an emergency only is vital to gain public co-operation." - Philip
"Wearing masks has always been about protecting the most vulnerable in society. It's so easy to do, and it could save a life. I'm keeping mine on." - Annika
"I am happy to wear a mask in close proximity on public transport. It's about common sense and the individual must decide for themselves." - James
"I am beyond thrilled to hear they are lifting the mask mandate. My 18-year-old Leaving Cert daughter left school in September because she couldn't breathe and she was constantly being berated by teacher(s) for having it under her nose. Now she can return." - Laura
Yes, it's long overdue that the Government scraps the compulsory masks especially for children, psychological abuse at this stage. - Mark
"I will continue to wear a mask. There are a lot of immuno-compromised people out there who seem to be the forgotten people. People talk about choice, which in principle I agree with, but choice should not endanger the lives of others. We, the immuno-compromised, are also worn out from the last couple of years, but for us to resume living, we need the help of others to keep us safe." - Finula Rice