Face Masks and COVID 19


By law you MUST wear a face covering when in shops, shopiing centres, pharmacies, bookmakers, libraries, cinemas, nail salons, hairdressers, barbers, dry cleaners and tattoo parlours.

A face covering should cover your mouth and nose. They can be made from cotton or silk. They should be washed daily. Disposable and medical masks should be worn once only and then thrown away properly.

Visors and face shields are not the best option for protecting yourself and others from COVID 19. Visors may stop some spread of droplets from your nose or mouth. This is better than not wearing any face covering at all. But visors should only be worn if you have an illness or impairment that makes wearing a face covering difficult.


Who should wear what kind of mask? Medical masks are recommended for:

  • Health workers in clinical settings. See our guidance for more information on the use of personal protective equipment by health care workers.

  • Anyone who is feeling unwell, including people with mild symptoms, such as muscle aches, slight cough, sore throat or fatigue.

  • Anyone awaiting COVID-19 test results or who has tested positive.



  • People caring for someone who is a suspected or confirmed case of COVID-19 outside of health facilities.

Medical masks are also recommended for the following groups, because they are at a higher risk of becoming seriously ill with COVID-19 and dying:

  • People aged 60 or over.

  • People of any age with underlying health conditions, including chronic respiratory disease, cardiovascular disease, cancer, obesity, immunocompromised patients and diabetes mellitus.

Non-medical, fabric masks can be used by the general public under the age of 60 and who do not have underlying health conditions.

How to put on and take off a medical mask:

  • Before touching the mask, clean your hands with an alcohol-based hand rub or soap and water. 

  • Inspect the mask for tears or holes; do not use a mask that has previously been worn or is damaged.



  • Verify which side is the top – this is usually where the metal strip is.

  • Then, identify the inside of the mask, which is usually the white side.

  • Place the mask on your face covering your nose, mouth and chin, making sure that there are no gaps between your face and the mask. Place the straps behind your head or ears. Do not cross the straps because this can cause gaps on the side of the mask.

  • Pinch the metal strip so it moulds to the shape of your nose.

  • Remember, do not touch the front of the mask while using it to avoid contamination; if you accidentally touch it, clean your hands. 


How to take off a medical mask:

  • Before touching the mask, clean your hands with an alcohol-based hand rub or soap and water.

  • Remove the straps from behind the head or ears, without touching the front of the mask.

  • As you remove the mask, lean forward and pull the mask away from your face.  



  • Medical masks are for single use only; discard the mask immediately, preferably into a closed bin.

  • Clean your hands after touching the mask.

  • Be aware of the condition of the mask; replace it if it gets soiled or damp.

How to put on and wear a fabric mask:


  • Before touching the mask, clean your hands with an alcohol-based hand rub or soap and water.

  • Inspect the mask for tears or holes, do not use a mask that is damaged.

  • Adjust the mask to cover your mouth, nose, and chin, leaving no gaps on the sides.

  • Place the straps behind your head or ears. Do not cross the straps because this can cause gaps on the side of your face.

  • Avoid touching the mask while wearing it. If you touch it, clean your hands.



  • Change your mask if it gets dirty or wet.

How to take off and store a fabric mask:

  • Clean your hands before taking off the mask.

  • Take off the mask by removing it from the ear loops, without touching the front of the mask.

  • If your fabric mask is not dirty or wet and you plan to reuse it, put it in a clean plastic, resealable bag. If you need to use it again, hold the mask at the elastic loops when removing it from the bag. Clean your mask once a day.



  • Clean your hands after removing the mask.

How to clean a fabric mask:

  • Wash fabric masks in soap or detergent and preferably hot water (at least 60 degrees Centigrade/140 degrees Fahrenheit) at least once a day.

  • If it is not possible to wash the mask in hot water, then wash it in soap/detergent and room temperature water, followed by boiling the mask for 1 minute.


General tips:

  • Make sure to clean your hands before touching your mask.

  • Make sure you have your own mask and do not share it with others.

  • Resist the temptation to pull down your mask to your chin or take if off when speaking to other people.

  • Do not store your mask around your arm or wrist or pull it down to rest around your chin or neck. Instead, store it in a clean plastic bag.


Fine and penalties Anyone who does not wear a face covering (or anyone who ignores a request to wear one) without a reasonable excuse can be fined €80. You must pay this fine within 28 days. If you do not pay your fine within 28 days, you will be summonsed to court where you may get:

  • A fine of up to €1,000

  • Up to one months' imprisonment



  • Both a fine and imprisonment

You could be fined more or sent to prison for longer, if it is your second or subsequent offence. Public health laws on face coverings are in place until 9 June 2021.

When to remove it You can remove your face covering if you need to:

  • talk to someone who has difficulty communicating

  • provide emergency help or care to a vulnerable person



  • take medication

You may be asked to remove your face covering to verify your age or identity. You may also remove your face covering when you are:

  • at a post office, credit union or bank

  • eating and drinking at a restaurant or café – wear one anytime you’re not at your table



  • getting medical or dental treatment

You do not have to wear a face covering if you have an illness or impairment that would make wearing a face covering difficult. Who should not wear a face covering Face coverings are not recommended for anyone who:


  • has trouble breathing

  • is unconscious or incapacitated

  • is unable to remove it without help

  • has special needs and who may feel upset or very uncomfortable wearing them

  • needs to communicate with someone who has learning difficulties, is hard of hearing or deaf


In these cases, if the person can wear a visor, it will give them some protection. But these are the only times when you should wear a visor. Cloth face coverings are a better way to protect yourself from COVID-19.

Exemption letters

Some workplaces or schools may ask for a medical certificate. But in general, you do not need to ask for a letter from a GP about your reason for not wearing a face covering.

Children and face coverings

Face coverings are not recommended for children under the age of 13, but some children may choose to wear one..

But children under 13 should wear a face covering if their doctor or healthcare worker tells them to. For example, some children may be advised to do this when attending a hospital clinic.

Children who may be under 13 in their first year of secondary school should wear a face covering when attending school. This is because they are at the same developmental stage as their peers and can follow the advice on using face coverings properly.

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