Face coverings during COVID-19


Wearing a face covering is recommended to help stop the spread of COVID-19. In some situations, wearing a face covering is mandatory, and you could be fined or imprisoned if you refuse to wear one without a reasonable excuse.

You are also strongly recommended to wear a face covering in situations where social distancing is difficult, for example, when visiting people who are cocooning.

This document explains the law on face coverings and gives advice on how to use one safely.

When must I wear a face covering?

Public transport

You must wear a face covering while using public transport.

If you have a reasonable excuse to not wear a face covering, you should tell the driver or inspector. Read ‘Exceptions’ below for information on reasonable excuses.

Drivers of a public transport vehicle do not have to wear a face covering if they are:

  • Alone in a compartment
  • Separated from passengers by a screen
  • In the vehicle but there are no passengers getting on or off

Shops and other retail settings

On 10 August 2020, new public health laws (pdf) made face coverings mandatory for customers in:

  • Shops, including pharmacies
  • Shopping centres
  • Libraries
  • Cinemas and cinema complexes
  • Theatres
  • Concert halls
  • Bingo halls
  • Museums
  • Nail salons
  • Hair salons and barbers
  • Tattoo and piercing parlours
  • Travel agents and tour operators
  • Laundries and dry cleaners
  • Bookmakers

You may be asked to remove your face covering to verify your age or identity to staff.

Face coverings are not mandatory in:

  • Post offices, credit unions or banks
  • Sit-in restaurants or cafés
  • Medical or dental services

It will also be mandatory for retail staff to wear a face covering unless there is a partition or they take all reasonable steps to keep a 2-metre distance from others.

These laws will be in place until at least 5 October 2020.


Face coverings are not suitable for some people, including children under 13. This means that children under 13 are exempt from the regulations.

If you have a reasonable excuse to not wear a face covering, you should tell a member of staff.

Reasonable excuses include where you:

  • Cannot wear a face covering because of a physical or mental illness or a disability, or because it would cause you severe distress
  • Need to communicate with someone who has difficulties communicating
  • Remove a face covering to provide care or assistance to a vulnerable person or to provide emergency assistance to someone
  • Remove a face covering to take medication
  • Remove a face covering to avoid harm or injury

Members of the Garda Síochána do not have to wear a face covering when performing their duties.

Fine and penalties

Anyone who does not wear a face covering (or anyone who ignores a request to wear one) without a reasonable excuse may get:

  • A fine of up to €2,500
  • Up to 6 months imprisonment
  • Both a fine and imprisonment

What type of face mask should I use?

A face covering (or barrier mask) is not a medical mask, which should be reserved for healthcare professionals. It is material (usually cotton or linen) that you wear across your nose and mouth using elastic or string. You can buy a face covering or make a face covering.

Face coverings or barrier masks are not personal protective equipment (PPE). They are not intended to protect the wearer against viral infection. Instead, they may prevent the spread of COVID-19 to others.

If you are distributing (or buying) face coverings, you should make sure they are produced in line with National Standards Authority of Ireland (NSAI) specifications. The specifications include:

  • Clear use of the words ‘barrier mask’
  • Name and address of the producer
  • Any warnings or safety information
  • Instructions for use

When you wear a face covering, you should continue to:

  • Wash your hands properly and often
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze
  • Keep at least 2 metres from other people

How do I use a face covering?

You should always wash your hands before putting on your face covering (barrier mask). Avoid touching it while you are wearing it and if you accidently touch the front, wash your hands straight away.

Make sure that the material fully covers your nose and mouth. You should check that it is tied securely and fits snugly against the side of your face.

Keep your spare face coverings in a clean, waterproof bag (such as a ziplock bag). You should carry a similar bag for used face coverings. Label these bags clearly so that you do not mix them up.

If you are a smoker, do not lift up your face covering to smoke. Instead, remove it completely and place it in your ‘used’ ziplock bag.

When you are removing your face covering, do so using the strings at the back. Do not touch the front.

If your face covering is disposable, throw it in a bin immediately after use. If it is re-usable, you should wash it in hot water (60 degrees or hotter) with detergent.

Read more about the guidelines for wearing a face covering correctly.

Download posters on the correct use of face coverings in English or Irish.

Page edited: 11 August 2020