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Explainer: Everything to know about new face covering regulations

You have to wear a face covering in most shops from today.

PEOPLE ARE REQUIRED to wear a face covering in most shops and other indoor facilities under new legislation in place from today. 

This comes after the wearing of face coverings on public transport was made mandatory by the government last month.

Failure to wear a face covering on public transport or in certain indoor shops and refusal to do so runs risk of a fine and potential imprisonment. 

There are exceptions to this, however, and some people are not required to wear them for a number of reasons. 

Here’s everything you need to know about wearing a face covering at the moment as the new requirements kick in today. 

What has changed from today?

The 1947 Health Act has been amended to include a mandatory requirement to wear face coverings in certain indoor premises.

This will stay in place until 5 October.

The move was agreed by members of the Cabinet several weeks ago but is only enforced by law from today. 

It means that customers and staff must now wear face coverings in shops, shopping centres and other indoor facilities in most circumstances. 

People who do not wear a face covering or anyone who ignores a request to wear one can face a fine of up to €2,500 and/or up to six months imprisonment. 

So where do I now need to wear one? 

  • Most indoor shops
  • Shopping centres
  • Libraries
  • Museums
  • Cinemas
  • Theatres and concert halls 
  • Bingo halls
  • Hairdressers
  • Licensed bookmakers
  • Nail salons
  • Tattoo and piercing services
  • Travel agents and tour operators
  • Laundries and dry cleaners

What are the exceptions?

Children under the age of 13, people who can’t wear a face covering due to disability or illness and people who need to communicate with somebody who has difficulty communicating are some of those exempt from the new requirements.

Staff must wear face coverings unless a partition or a two-metre distance is in place between customers and workers in a facility.

Customers who remove a face covering at the request of a worker in order to show their full face for identification in the purchase of items like alcohol are classified as having a reasonable excuse to not wear a face covering at that time.  

Are any indoor settings excluded from this? 

Yes, a few indoor places don’t fall under the requirement to wear coverings.

Post offices, credit unions and banks do not fall under the regulations. Indoor facilities that include any of these three services are also exempt from the requirement. 

Anywhere that sells food or drinks for the principal reason of being consumed on the premises, such as restaurants, is also excluded. 

Places that mainly provide medical, dental or a few other healthcare services do not have the requirement. 

The managing director of retail industry group Retail Excellence, Duncan Graham, said retail will take its “responsibilities seriously and will be looking for the support of the public to help make shopping safe for all”. 

Where is it recommended, but not required, to wear one? 

The government recommends that people wear face coverings in situations in which social distancing is difficult. 

These include visits to people who are cocooning and when in other indoor public settings.

What is the proper way to take on and off a face covering?

Under the regulations, a face covering is defined as any type of covering that covers somebody’s nose and mouth. 

Wash your hands before putting on the covering and avoid touching it while you are wearing it. 

If you do accidentally touch the front of the mask while wearing it, it is advised to wash your hands straight away. 

The covering should be tied securely and fit snugly against the side of your face and fully cover your nose and mouth. 

The government advises to keep spare, washed face coverings and masks in a clean waterproof bag such as a ziplock bag. 

A similar bag should be used for face coverings you have worn so you can either wash them or dispose of them safely. 

Smokers are advised to not lift their face coverings up or down to smoke. Instead it is advised to remove it completely before placing in the used mask bag. 

Remove the face covering from the ear loops at the back, not by pulling on the outside of the mask at the front. 

Hands should be washed immediately after removing a face covering. 

Disposable face coverings should be thrown in a bin after use. Reusable ones should be washed in hot water with detergent.

The government advises to wash reusable face coverings daily. 

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