Face coverings now mandatory in shops and other indoor settings

Those in breach of the rules can be fined up to €2,500 or face six months imprisonment

Regulations making face coverings mandatory in shops and other indoor public settings such as hairdressers and museums are in force from today.

Similar to the regulations requiring people to wear face masks on public transport, those in breach of the rules can be fined up to €2,500 or face six months imprisonment.

The move to make face coverings mandatory in shops and other retail outlets was announced three weeks ago, with regulations enforcing the measures coming into effect from today.

The regulations apply to shops, supermarkets, shopping centres, retail outlets, hairdressers, nail bars, museums, libraries, and cinemas.

The requirement does not extend to restaurants, bars, cafes, or post offices, credit unions and banks. Premises providing healthcare services such as opticians or dentists are also exempt.

Children under 13 years of age are exempt from the regulations, as are people who cannot wear face coverings due to a physical or mental illness.

All retail staff will be required to wear face coverings at work, unless they are separated from customers by a partition, or can maintain a 2m distance at all times.

In the initial months of the coronavirus pandemic public health officials played down the usefulness of face masks, however they introduced the mandatory measures as the country began to reopen from lockdown.

Officials had feared the use of masks would lead to a slippage in compliance with other measures, such as frequent hand washing and social distancing, which are more effective in preventing the spread of Covid-19.

Disposable face coverings should not be worn more than once, and reusable cloth masks should be washed after use at 60 degrees.

Minister for Justice Helen McEntee has said if an individual remains inside a shop or other outlet without a mask, the owner or staff would engage with them in the first instance. Only as a “last resort” would gardaí be called to deal with the matter, she said.

Ms McEntee said gardaí had only been required to be called in a small number of cases where people refused to wear face coverings on public transport.

The regulations around face coverings in shops come into force as the number of coronavirus cases has increased over the last week, in part due to several large outbreaks in food processing plants. The death toll from Covid-19 in the Republic now stands at 1,772 and there are 26,712 confirmed cases.