HSE says visors may be an alternative to masks in some circumstances

Nphet has said visors offer inappropriate protection against Covid-19 for majority of people

Visors may be an alternative to face-coverings in certain circumstances to protect against Covid-19, according to new guidance from the Health Service Executive.

The advice, which notes that visors reduce exposure to droplets “to a certain extent”, mentions circumstances such as people with breathing difficulties, or who are unable to remove masks or face-coverings without help.

Other circumstances where visors could be used are where people feel upset or very uncomfortable wearing face-coverings, or where people who have learning difficulties or are hard of hearing or deaf are present.

National Public Health Emergency Team members have repeatedly counselled that visors are inappropriate as protection against the virus for the vast majority of people.


However, the guidance from the HSE’s Health Protection Surveillance Centre stops short of recommending against their use.

It says good quality evidence to allow for assessment of differences in the degree of protection afforded by surgical masks, cloth face-coverings and visors is lacking, particularly for public settings.

Its recommendations related only to cloth face-coverings and visors because, it says, surgical masks are not currently recommended for use outside healthcare settings.

There is a “clear consensus” surgical masks are generally preferred, particularly in high-risk situations, and that “cloth face-coverings are preferred to visors”.

Some international guidance recommends against the use of visors alone, but there is also a “body of evidence and opinion” that visors offer a “significant degree of protection” against droplet protection compared to no face protection.

“Face coverings are always in addition to and never a substitute for other Public Health measures including limiting social contacts, maintaining social distance, hand hygiene and practising appropriate respiratory etiquette.”

The HPSC said in public settings, expert opinion and international guidance generally favours cloth face-coverings.

“There is a rationale and laboratory evidence in particular for favouring cloth face coverings over visors where the wearer is at a higher level (standing) than those potentially exposed at a lower level (sitting).”

Where cloth face coverings are used, they should be of multiple layers of suitable fabric and correctly applied, it recommends.

Paul Cullen

Paul Cullen

Paul Cullen is a former heath editor of The Irish Times.