'perfect storm' | 

Health Minister says plan to bring back mask-wearing is ‘under review’

Mask-wearing is not on the horizon for the Government at the moment, he reassured Newstalk listeners but “obviously” the situation is evolving.

Health Minister Stephen Donnelly speaks to the media outside the Beaumont Hospital in Dublin, after a record number of patients were recorded on trolleys in hospitals across Ireland. Picture date: Tuesday January 3, 2023.© PA

Maeve McTaggartSunday World

Health Minister Stephen Donnelly has said plans to bring mask-wearing back are unlikely but “under review” every day.

Recent hikes in cases of flu, Covid-19 and RSV have put a major strain on the nation’s hospitals, prompting calls from the CMO to return to face masks when out-and-about.

Speaking to Newstalk this morning, the Health Minister said the issue of a mask mandate will be assessed “on a daily and on a weekly basis.”

A record number of patients were on hospital trolleys across the country on Tuesday, caused by the “perfect storm of RSV, the flu and COVID – as well as all of the normal pressures,” the Minister said.

Mask-wearing is not on the horizon for the Government at the moment, he reassured listeners but “obviously” the situation is evolving.

"The public health advice to Government, and to me at the moment, is not to move to mask mandates.

"Obviously we will keep the situation under review on a daily on a weekly basis.”

Minister Donnelly added that people should wear masks in healthcare settings, crowded places and on public transport.

It echoes advice by Chief Medical Officer Breda Smyth, who said before Christmas that “if we are to wear a mask, now is the time to wear it.”

Speaking today, Minister Donnelly said the wave of flu infections will get worse before it gets better.

"The advice I have from the Chief Medical Officer is the modelling is difficult in terms of being accurate," he said.

"However what I can tell you is the HSE's view today when I met them was that this is likely to get worse, we are likely to see more pressure.

"They don't believe that the flu wave has peaked."

Over 900 people were being treated in trolleys or chairs in hospitals across the country on Tuesday and emergency department consultants have warned there will be more “unnecessary deaths” due to overcrowding.

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