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'new phase' Taoiseach Micheál Martin hints face masks may be made advisory rather than compulsory soon

It means the use of face coverings would come down to personal choice

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Covid face masks could be recommended for wear in shops and on public transport after the end of this month, the Taoiseach has indicated.

The use of face coverings would thus be a matter of personal choice, rather than a requirement, as it is at present. The rule is due to expire at the end of February.

“Personally, I would still prefer to wear masks going into retail and on public transport. The pandemic isn't over,” the Taoiseach said on RTÉ Radio’s This Week programme.

But crucially he added: “We are definitely in a new phase.

“We are moving into advisory phase in terms of personal responsibilities and so on.”

Mr Martin said the priority would be to review the situation in schools for children, suggesting primary and secondary pupils may no longer be donning their masts in class.

“I would like to think we might be in a position to do something there — and be hopeful would do that before the summer break,” Mr Martin said.

He said the Government would continue to engage with public health experts on the issue — and on mask-wearing in retail and public transport.

Hospitality staff in pubs and restaurants also have to wear masks, although their customers do not once seated. This requirement also expires at the end of this month, although Mr Martin did not reference the sector.

Face masks have “served us well, in my view,” Mr Martin, adding that it might be “down to what people feel comfortable with after the 28th of February.”

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