Just Masking | 

End of mask mandate ahead - but what do teachers, retail and transport workers think?

“I really think they should be kept on public transport, I think if I'm going into a crowded bar or bus, I will be keeping my mask on.”
Stock image

Stock image

Clodagh Meaney

The National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet) has recommended to the government that the mask mandate for shops, public transport and schools be scrapped from the end of this month.

The mask mandate was imposed in 2020 at the very beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic to help slow the spread of the virus.

Under proposals discussed by public health officials on Thursday, it has been recommended to the Government that the legal requirement for masks to be worn in schools, in retail outlets and on public transport end from February 28.

The public health advice will continue to be that masks should also be worn in healthcare settings.

Speaking to sundayworld.com, workers in the affected industries have revealed their thoughts on the news.

One south Dublin primary school teacher said that kids are catching Covid regardless of masks.

“I feel sorry for the children, they're catching it regardless of masks,” she explained.

“As a teacher, I would be happy to teach the kids without them wearing masks, half of them are wearing them under their chin anyways.”

“I think they were needed at the time and it was such a tough decision to make.”

“With Omicron, wearing masks did not make a huge impact on our [cases], in fact they increased.”

Meanwhile a 48-year-old retail worker said she isn’t so keen on customers coming into her store without wearing a mask.

“I don’t think they should get rid of them yet. Everyone I work with has been great about wearing masks and I think we will continue to keep them at work until we’re comfortable enough not to,” she explained.

“Masks are one of the last things that have made me feel safe at work because I haven’t caught Covid yet, but I reckon they’re going down the path of herd immunity like they did in the UK so this is part of that,” she said.

“So it won’t be long [until] I’m sick, which isn’t a great thought to have,” she explained, adding: “I really think they should be kept on public transport, I think if I'm going into a crowded bar or bus I will be keeping my mask on.”

A 24-year-old bar worker revealed that masks make his busy job harder.

“For me, masks at work have been a barrier to communicating with customers," he told sundayworld.com.

“It’s harder to hear people when you’re taking orders and the floor is busy and masks don’t help, loads of people pull them down to tell you their order anyways,” he explained.

“I’m glad customers won't have to wear them because yeah, it will make things easier and I’ve already had Covid so I’m not worried about getting sick right now either.”

A Meath taxi driver said he also looks forward to losing the masks.

“It makes no odds to me, I’ve had the screen up in the car for going on two years and I’m vaccinated so I'll be protected, I’m not worried,” he said.

“I hate wearing the mask in the car all day anyways so it’s good news for me.”

“Sure, if it means being able to be more personable with customers that's great, no one is up for a chat anymore because of the masks and it's that bit of chatter that can get me tips so I'll be in the money now again,” he joked.

But the news hasn’t been welcomed by everyone. One immuno-compromised person told of their disappointment, fear and anger and the decision to scrap masks.

"I think it’s way too soon. It’s locking immuno-compromised people out of unavoidable parts of society, like food shopping, public transport and pharmacies, with absolutely no support offered from the government or HSE," they explained.

"There is no scientific backing to the removal of masks and is going to put pressure on frontline healthcare staff. "

"It is baffling to me that the government think 9–10k cases a day and three figure deaths a week is an acceptable time to lift protective measures," they added.

"It feels inevitable that I and people like me will get Covid even after two years of successful shielding because a politically-driven decision was made to lift mask mandates."

A government decision on the mask mandate is expected this Friday.

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