The universal use of masks in hospitals and other healthcare settings will be relaxed from the end of this month, reports RTE.
Mandatory use of personal protective equipment has been introduced in healthcare settings during the pandemic (COVID-19) as part of infection prevention and control measures.
The decision to remove the requirement is contained in the new Health Protection Monitoring Center (HPSC) public health guidance, which will take effect from 19 April.
As of that date, the HPSC says it would be appropriate to abandon the universal use of masks for healthcare workers, patients and visitors to healthcare facilities “outside of periods of high levels of community transmissioN,” reports RTE.
The updated advice states that “a local institutional risk assessment is appropriate to determine the timing of a move away from universal use of masks” in that particular location,” reports RTE.
However, the use of masks will still be recommended under certain circumstances.
The HPSC says healthcare workers should use surgical masks or respirator masks “at a minimum, for interaction with patients with respiratory viral symptoms,” reports RTE.
An infectious disease consultant at Cork University Hospital described the move to ease mask-wearing rules as ‘really welcome’.
Professor Mary Horgan, who is also president of the Royal College of Physicians of Ireland, said the decision was ‘aa big step in our move to normality after what has been a long period of time. The last three years of the pandemic we had to wear masks within the healthcare setting, so the fact that we don’t have to wear them anymore, both the patients but also the healthcare professionals, makes us kind of feel that we’re back to normal again,” reports RTE.
Professor Horgan said the mandatory use of masks on a daily basis was a challenge.
“But we all knew that it was for the right reason. By wearing the masks we knew we were protecting our patients because they’re particularly vulnerable when it comes to getting Covid-19,” reports RTE.
Professor Horgan also said she hoped there will be “a national approach to this and that hospitals and other health care facilities will embrace this really welcome news and only have people wear masks if they have symptoms of respiratory tract infections,” reports RTE.
Separately, the head of ALONE – the senior advocacy organization – said it is messaging older adults in the wake of the pandemic to re-enter society or provide the support needed to build the confidence to do so.
“There’s obviously a situation for some people that Covid hasn’t gone away and all the physical manifestations and signs of two metres apart are still there,” ALONE chief executive Seán Moynihan said, reports RTE.
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