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Wearing of face masks on public transport and in supermarkets likely to be recommended, says minister

The Taoiseach previously said the wearing of face masks will not be compulsory.

Image: Shutterstock/Simon Kadula

TRANSPORT MINISTER SHANE Ross has said it is likely that people will be encouraged to wear masks on public transport and in supermarkets.

Speaking in the Dáil this afternoon, Ross said the Chief Medical Officer Tony Holohan  will make a recommendation on the wearing of face coverings by the end of the week.

“It looks that people will be asked to use coverings on public transport… It may be recommended that coverings be allowed and encouraged in places such as on public transport and in supermarkets.

“There would be positives and negatives to such a recommendation but guidance is needed,” said the minister.

He said the issue must be monitored very carefully because the government does not know what the demand will be like.

“It is very difficult to know whether people will be reluctant to go on buses or whether they will move to their private cars. It is being monitored very closely. We are very confident about phase one. Phase two is coming a few weeks later and adjustments will be made accordingly,” he added.

Will not be compulsory

Earlier in the month, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said the wearing of a face mask will not be compulsory if it is introduced.

While other countries have recommended the wearing of masks, the Taoiseach has said the science is equivocal.

“Some people will say it is a good idea and some will say it is a bad idea.

“It is not one of those straightforward decisions where science tells you what the right thing to do is,” he said. 

The World Health Organization says the use of medical masks in the community may create a false sense of security and lead to a neglect in hand hygiene and physical distancing. 

The Taoiseach has also raised concerns that any encouragement to wear face masks could jepordise supply to healthcare workers if there is a large uptake by the general public.

On the issue of public transport, the minister confirmed that the department will have to provide funding to public transport providers to continue their services.

“At home the public transport system is a critical part of the plan for reopening of the economy.

“It is inconceivable that public transport should not function properly in the present crisis.

“Therefore, I can confirm to the house that the Government will provide the necessary additional funding to continue those services, despite the drop in fare income.

“My department is working closely with the NTA (National Transport Authority) and DPER (Department of Public Expenditure and Reform of Ireland) to assess and quantify this additional funding requirement.”

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Ross said that since the beginning of the crisis, domestic travel has significantly reduced.

Increase in road deaths

“Notwithstanding this, road deaths remain slightly above numbers for the same period last year,” he added.

“In particular, there has been a worrying increase in the number of pedestrian deaths.

“Figures for drink-driving are as high as last year, and drug-driving is significantly up.

“At this time, when we are all concerned about the impact of Covid-19, I appeal to all road users to act responsibly and with care.”

He said it is disappointing to see that there has been an increase in road deaths despite there being fewer cars on the roads.

Ross said it is concerning that traffic is down by about 70%, but road deaths are up, stating that the number of pedestrian deaths is also worrying.

He said a body of work is being done to ascertain why, but suggested that more people are out walking during the crisis.

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