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Red C Poll

79% of people in favour of mandatory mask-wearing in at least one setting

More people in older age groups said they would like to see masks made mandatory.

MORE THAN THREE quarters of people in Ireland would like to see face masks made mandatory in at least one setting, according to a new survey.

An opinion poll carried out on behalf of The Journal by Red C Research found that 79% of people feel that face masks should be mandatory in at least one setting:

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It comes following a surge in Covid-19 cases in recent weeks due to the spread of the BA.4 and BA.5 subvariants of the Omicron strain of the virus.

Between 3 and 9 July, some 16,792 new cases were reported, according to the latest Health Protection Surveillance Centre report. This is an increase of 31.3% compared to the previous week, when there were 12,789 confirmed cases notified.

According to the Red C poll, 72% of those surveyed said they would like to see face masks made mandatory in healthcare settings, while 64% were in favour of mandatory mask-wearing on public transport.

Almost two-thirds of people surveyed (57%) wanted to see masks made mandatory on airplanes, while just over half (51%) said they should be mandatory in airports.

40% were in favour of mandatory masks in shops, 35% in service locations such as hairdressers or salons, and 31% said they would like to see masks made mandatory anywhere you might interact with other people.

Just over a fifth (21%) of those surveyed said they were not in favour of mandatory mask-wearing in any setting.

More people in older age groups said they would like to see masks made mandatory, with 90% of respondents aged 55 and older in favour of this in any setting. 

This compared to 75% of those aged 35-55 and 71% of those aged 18-34.

There was little difference between male and female responses, with more women looking more favourably on mandatory mask wearing than men overall.

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Respondents with dependent children were less in favour of the idea than those without, with 18% saying they would like to see masks made mandatory in educational settings compared to 30% of those without dependent children.

Last month, it emerged that the government had agreed to prepare draft legislation that would allow a mask mandate to be introduced in specific settings if deemed necessary.

However, there are currently no plans to implement any such requirement, with sources stating that it is not expected to happen at any time in the near future.

Speaking after the news emerged, Taoiseach Micheál Martin told reporters it was a contingency measure.

“We’re making sure we have legislation, contingency planning through legislation that if we have to bring back mask-mandates for public transport, or indeed for retail, that we would be in a position to do that quickly,” he said.

He also said that the country has moved past the “emergency phase” of the virus, with vaccination set to be the “the key weapon” this autumn. 

The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control and the European Medicines Agency have recommended a second booster dose of Covid vaccines for people between 60 and 79 years old.

The National Immunisation Advisory Committee (NIAC) is considering whether people under 65 should be invited to get a second booster jab.

Professor of Immunology at DCU Christine Loscher told The Journal last week that there should be “very clear message” that masks have a place in terms of protection right now, particularly “well fitting, high-grade medical masks”.

“I have noticed that there are a lot more people wearing masks now than there were even three weeks ago. Still very small numbers but definitely more, and they do have a role to play in reducing your risk,” she said.

She also said that the current wave of the virus was most likely peaking around now, but expressed concern at what a winter surge of Covid might look like, given that the current subvariants are “much more transmissible” than those last winter.

“We do need to be mindful that if BA.4 and BA.5 have been so good at causing infection, and if they are very immune evasive, which means they’re very good at avoiding your previous immunity from either infection or vaccination, if you transported into the wintertime and we have a wave like this, we could see much higher case numbers, and a bigger impact on workplaces,” she said.

“I think everybody just knows so many people at the moment that have Covid and a lot of workplaces are really suffering from staff shortages. We’re seeing numbers still climbing going into hospital, and so the impact of a subvariant like BA.4 and BA.5 would definitely be a bit more apparent in the wintertime than it is at the moment.”

The headline has been changed to clarify that the 79% referred to at least one setting.

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