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frightened Cystic Fibrosis teen backs calls for lifting of mandatory mask wearing to be delayed

'If I do contract Covid-19 there is a very high likelihood I could end up in ICU and I could even die'


A decision on mandatory mask wearing will be made later today

A decision on mandatory mask wearing will be made later today

A decision on mandatory mask wearing will be made later today

A Dublin teenager who has Cystic Fibrosis has said he is frightened by the imminent ending of mandatory mask wearing. 

Benat Broderick (18) said he feels nervous about the final decision that will be taken by the Cabinet this morning and is annoyed that ending the mandate "comes so soon".

"I do think we could have waited slightly longer,” he told RTE News. “I am also frightened and I also feel scared for what potentially this could lead to."

Benat, who is an Ambassador for Cystic Fibrosis Ireland added: “Realistically, if I do contract Covid-19 there is a very high likelihood I could end up in ICU and I could even die."

Benat was speaking as six groups representing medically vulnerable people called for the lifting of mandatory mask wearing to be delayed.

Cystic Fibrosis Ireland, the Irish Heart Foundation, the Asthma Society of Ireland, the Irish Kidney Association, the Irish Cancer Society and COPD Ireland all want the Government to delay its decision.

The leaders of the three Government parties yesterday backed NPHET's recommendations to end mandatory mask wearing and a final decision will be taken by the Cabinet this morning.


Benat Broderick

Benat Broderick

Benat Broderick

If, as expected agreement is reached at Cabinet, the changes would take effect from 28 February.

Dr Angie Browne, a consultant cardiologist and the Medical Director of the Irish Heart Foundation, said: "We really feel this is premature and would call on the Government to delay this lifting of mandatory mask wearing for a couple of months when the flu season is finished with, and the levels of Covid have hopefully reduced."

Speaking to RTÉ's Morning Ireland, she added: "I think it is important that we do move to normality but I think this is very hasty and I don’t think there is any reason to do this so quickly."

A consultant respiratory physician at St Vincent's Private Hospital and Chairman of COPD Ireland said: "From the point of view of our patients we would prefer that this would be delayed.

"We are aware of the pressures in Government but you have got to ask yourself does wearing a mask do any harm to anybody in the general population?"

Professor Tim McDonnell said: "We would probably think that holding off a decision until the spring or the summer comes along would perhaps be reasonable.

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"We know that the respiratory viruses are commoner at this time of year. It might be reasonable to consider withdrawal of mask wearing as we go in to the spring and the summer."

Cystic Fibrosis Ireland also called on the Government to delay its decision on abandoning mandatory mask wearing.

"We are a little bit anxious and concerned. I don't know why there is a sudden rush to lift so many regulations around mask wearing. Certainly there is a level of anxiety amongst the Cystic Fibrosis Community that perhaps we are being premature on this.

"For the sake of everybody I think mask wearing should continue. We are calling on the Government to delay the decision," said Philip Watt, CEO of Cystic Fibrosis Ireland.

Sarah O'Connor, CEO of the Asthma Society of Ireland, called for the Government to delay its decision because vulnerable people contacting her society feel the removal of mask mandates is a risk.

"People feel it is a substantial risk to them and to their health. They really feel like masks are a big part of the protection for them and that the next number of weeks are crucial to allow them to emerge from what can be a very challenging period - i.e., the winter months. We can't just walk in to this at a moment's notice, it actually needs quite a bit of preparation and work," she said.

CEO of the Irish Cancer Society Averil Power also said it is too early to remove the mask mandate.

"While most people get strong protection from the vaccines unfortunately that is not the case for immunocompromised groups like people with blood cancer.

"There are new antiviral drugs being developed which can give them better protection against severe Covid but Ireland doesn't yet have sufficient stocks of those for everyone who needs them.

"People who are immunocompromised unfortunately don’t feel safe yet and will not feel safe being in crowded indoor spaces unless they know the person beside them will be wearing a mask," Ms Power said.

Colin White, National Advocacy and Projects Manager for the Irish Kidney Association, said: "Less than one third of medically vulnerable people who are currently eligible have received their booster shot, so to remove the facemask safety net now seems premature.

"Additionally, the new Covid-19 treatments are in short supply, with further deliveries not due till March. Clear air ventilation standards have not been put in place. We ask the Government to follow the science and ensure these safety nets are in place before removing the mask mandate entirely."

The Irish College of General Practitioners said mask wearing will continue in healthcare settings. It is calling on people to continue wearing masks on public transport and in crowded areas.

Dr Nuala O'Connor, the ICGP's Covid-19 lead, said: "We would ask people to continue wearing them on public transport, and in very crowded areas to protect both yourself and others who may be more vulnerable to infection.

"Many people, particularly those with weak immune systems, must continue to wear masks and we need to respect this.

"During the pandemic, we learnt a lot about how infections spread - respiratory infections in particular. It’s important we take those lessons on board into the future - i.e. handwashing, staying at home if sick, and wearing a mask to cover your coughs and sneezes."

The Mandate Trade Union - which represents 25,000 retail workers - also called for the retention of mask wearing in shops.

General Secretary Gerry Light said: "What we are saying to Cabinet is to take a cautious approach. The pandemic and Covid hasn't gone away. There are still people - not only getting sick from it - but dying from it.

"What we are saying to Cabinet is they should retain the provision for mask wearing in retail settings until we get a little bit more certainty down the road a little bit further and get out of the winter season and get out of the flu season and reassess it in a couple of months’ time."

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