The Irish Times view on the recommendation to drop the requirement for masks wearing: an act of solidarity

Wearing a mask means we are less likely to catch Covid, and less likely to pass it on

When the requirement for mask-wearing in shops, schools and on public transport lapses, one of the last visible signs of the extraordinary public health measures imposed on the country for two years will finally be gone.

The move to end the requirement, confirmed after a meeting of the National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet), demonstrates the confidence among the Government’s health advisers that harm from Covid-19 is continuing to reduce and that, barring the emergence of new variants, the worst of the pandemic has passed.

There were good arguments, made by trade unions and others, for retaining the mask requirement for another few weeks so as to allow for child vaccination rates to increase and for the worst of the cold period to pass. At the same time, a measure such as this one is by definition extraordinary; once the scientific and public-health rationale for imposing it no longer applies, it is right that it be lifted. To retain measures when that rationale does not exist could be to risk weakening public support for the reimposition of restrictions if and when that becomes necessary.

The removal of the mask requirement does not mean that people should not continue to wear them in enclosed public settings. A great many people will continue to do so, particularly at a time when case numbers remain high and some have found the adjustment to current freedoms hard to make after two years of near-confinement at home.

Across the country, the medically vulnerable and immuno-compromised will today be worrying that little bit more about the risks they face when venturing outside to do their shopping or to see friends and family. Their fears and concerns should not be underestimated. In fact, they should be uppermost in people’s minds when they decide whether to mask up or not. Wearing a mask means we are less likely to catch Covid, and less likely to pass it on. Wearing a mask in enclosed spaces, in other words, is an act of generosity and solidarity with others.

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