Tuesday, 16 June 2020
Department of Health
662. To ask the Minister for Health if medical-grade masks will be made available free of charge to medical cardholders that are over 60 years of age and those that are medically vulnerable in view of the fact the WHO guidelines and the prohibitive cost of these masks for those on low incomes; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11297/20]
The National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET) provided guidance in relation to face coverings in its advice to Government in relation to Phase 2 of the Roadmap for Reopening Business & Society on 4 June.
The NPHET advice sets out circumstances under which the wearing of a non-medical face covering is recommended. These are when using busy public transport, when in indoor public areas including retail outlets, by people visiting the homes of those who are cocooning, by people who are being visited in their homes by those who are cocooning, all visitors to residential care facilities and in indoor work environments where it is difficult to maintain a two-metre distance. The wearing of face coverings in other environments should accommodate individual judgement or preference or where it is difficult to maintain a 2-metre distance.
Medical-grade face masks are not currently recommended for use by members of the general public. The NPHET keeps the position on the wearing of face coverings under continual review. Based on current advice, there are no plans at present to provide medical-grade face masks to medical cardholders.
It is important to emphasise that the wearing of face coverings is an additional hygiene measure and should not take the place of good hand hygiene, respiratory etiquette and other personal protective public health measures. Face coverings should be used properly, in line with the guidance and to wash hands before putting them on and taking them off. A national communications campaign has been launched on 15 June and which outlines best practice for the use of face coverings in retail outlets, on public transport and in other public locations in which it is difficult to maintain social distancing or where this distance cannot be guaranteed, and will communicate to the public about:
- who should wear face coverings
- in what settings, and
- how to wear and remove face coverings correctly.
663. To ask the Minister for Health the person or bodies some others are referred to in the public health advice for passengers coming here from overseas to self-isolate for 14 days on arrival into the State, with exemptions for set categories of persons including supply chain workers and some others; if airline staff are included in the exemption; if they are required to self-isolate for 14 days; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11306/20]
711. To ask the Minister for Health the procedures being put in place at airports, ports and other places of entry to ensure persons travelling will self-isolate for the appropriate period of time. [11540/20]
I propose to take Questions Nos. 663 and 711 together.
The measures taken are underpinned by a clear public health rationale.
As the number of indigenous cases here declines and Ireland eases some restrictions, the relative importance of the risk of importation of cases from overseas increases. Ultimately, the progress towards suppression of community transmission which has been achieved and which should allow for greater resumption of social and economic life in Ireland could be endangered.
The public health advice for passengers arriving into the State from overseas is to self-isolate for 14 days. I would ask that all persons arriving into the State follow this advice, and indeed all public health advice, as closely as they can. Persons arriving from Northern Ireland, international transport workers, including airline and maritime workers, and supply chain workers are not asked to self-isolate.
Information for those who are self-isolating and for people living with those who are self-isolating is published by the HSE on www.hse.ie. Information resources on self-isolation are also available on the website of the HSPC, and these have been translated into a number of languages.
My Department engages directly by email with families and businesses who have queries about public health advice.
Separately, since 28 May, it is a legal requirement for passengers arriving from overseas to complete a COVID-19 Passenger Locator Form. The information on the form may be used to assist our contact tracing teams.