Face coverings and public health


Sir, – Janette Tyrrell (Letters, June 3rd) is correct that the wearing of masks will not be embraced by the general public until public figures wear them and it is mandatory for certain situations.

However, there is more to it than that. The fact is our public authorities have been ambivalent about them until very recently and are still not encouraging people enough.

Initially, it was because they feared a mask might lull people into a sense of false confidence and relax their guard. Also, and this was a reason we would all support, it might deprive healthcare workers of the masks they need.

But without actually doing something to corral the available masks for healthcare workers, that remains a pious hope, as can be seen by anyone who has tried to buy masks online since the beginning of this situation.

Such entreaties work about as well as asking people not to buy too much toilet paper.

At the beginning of June, the UK Royal Society published the Data Evaluation and Learning for Viral Epidemics report on the wearing of masks, which dealt with these and other issues, and concluded that the use of masks was a good strategy, especially where social distancing might be difficult. The report is easily available online.

There needs to be a much stronger focus on recommending the use of masks especially as the lockdown continues to ease.

Of course, there is a problem with people online selling sub-standard equipment and price-gougers, but simple and oft-repeated advice about these matters and how masks should be worn should help with these problems.

The advice at the moment is better than it was but it is time for the authorities to get off the fence with regard to masks. – Yours, etc,


Dublin 2.