Wearing mask a ‘behavioural change we will have to get used to’ - Harris

Minister says reproduction rate estimated at 0.7 and remains stable

Speaking in the Dáil Minister for Health Simon Harris has said that 'in the same way that people put their phone, keys and wallet into their bags, they should now put a face mask into a bag and into their pocket'. Video: Oireachtas TV


The reproduction rate of coronavirus is estimated to be at 0.7 and remains below 1, Minister for Health Simon Harris has told the Dáil.

He said the rate at which an infected person transmits the virus is more difficult to estimate the smaller the numbers of cases of the virus there are, which reinforced the need “to remain vigilant and careful not to catch or transmit the virus as we go about our daily business”.

The Minister stressed that “while we continue to make progress, we should not forget this virus is still among us and its future is dependent on our actions”.

But “the data is showing that the level of the Covid-19 disease is remaining stable”.

Mr Harris also said that wearing a face mask is a behavioural change “we will have to get used to”.

In the same way that people put their phone, keys and wallet into their bags, they should now put a face mask into a bag and into their pocket, he said, and for use on public transport and in indoor public areas such as shops, visiting the homes of those who are cocooning and visiting a residential care facility and in indoor areas where it is difficult to keep the 2 metres social distance.

The Minister also released figures which showed this week that of the 256 clusters of the virus in nursing homes, 174 have now closed.

“This is welcome news and a sign of progress.”

He also acknowledged that while the re-opening this week to visitors of nursing homes is “gradual and slow, it should be a sign of relief to us all that loved ones can now have the opportunity to spend time their loved ones”.

Opening a Dáil debate and question and answer session on Covid-19 and its impact on the health service, the Minister said the National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET) will meet to examine the roadmap for re-opening society and Cabinet will make decisions on Friday based on that advice.

On the resumption of overall health services Mr Harris said the HSE is “finalising plans to re-establish vital non-Covid supports and services” and will issue an update shortly.

This included services for the disability sector and community healthcare organisations, and Section 38/39 agencies working together to plan and co-ordinate efforts on the provision of services.

He said that because of the vulnerability of people with disability “any plans to safely commence all disability services and supports must comply with guidance developed by the National Public Surveillance Centre in the HSE”.

He added that the four screening programmes were now finalising “their plans for a phased reintroduction of screening”.