Face masks during COVID-19

Introduction

You are recommended to wear a face mask in some situations to help stop the spread of COVID-19.

It is no longer mandatory to wear a face mask on public transport, in taxis, shops, schools and other indoor public areas.

Staff in restaurants, pubs, hotels and other hospitality settings do not need to wear a face mask.

If you are wearing a face mask you may be asked to remove your face mask to verify your age or identity to staff.

When should I wear a face mask?

  • If you are at higher risk of being seriously ill if you get COVID-19 you are recommended to wear a face mask indoors or in crowded places. You can read about which conditions may leave you at higher risk of being seriously ill if you get COVID-19.
  • If you are visiting somebody at higher risk of COVID-19
  • If you are visiting a healthcare setting, for example a GP surgery or hospital.
  • If you have COVID-19 you should isolate for 7 days but if you need to be in the same room as another person, everyone in the room should wear a face mask.
  • If you have completed 7 days of self-isolation you should wear a face-mask for 3 days afterwards.

Check which mask you should wear if you have COVID-19.

When is it recommended to wear a face mask?

You are recommended to wear a face mask when using public transport. This includes in taxis, as well as in bus and rail stations.

Who is not recommended to wear a face mask?

Face masks are not recommended for some people, including children under 9. However, children under 9 may be asked to wear one by a healthcare worker at a doctor’s clinic, hospital or COVID-19 testing centre.

Face masks should not be worn by people who:

  • Have difficulty breathing
  • Feel uncomfortable wearing a face mask
  • Have difficulty communicating

Children and face masks

When you are choosing a face mask for your child, make sure it is made for children so that it fits properly. Medical and respirator masks may not work well for children if their face is small. Use a cloth mask that fits well instead.

What type of face mask should I use?

If you have a confirmed case of COVID-19 you should isolate for 7 days and wear a face mask for 10 days.

  • If you are aged 12 or over, you should wear a medical grade or FFP2 (respirator face mask).
  • If you are aged 9-12 years, you should wear a well-fitted face mask.

Medical or respirator mask

Medical face masks (also known as surgical masks) are disposable masks. They are usually green or blue in colour.

Respirator masks usually have 4 layers of light, paper-like material. They are usually white on the inside and the outside. . FFP2, FFP3, N95 and KN95 are all types of respirator masks. They are all very similar.

Cloth face masks

Cloth face coverings are not personal protective equipment (PPE).

When choosing a face mask, make sure it:

  • Fits snugly at the side of your face and doesn't leave any gaps
  • Completely covers your nose and mouth
  • Has two or more layers of washable, breathable fabric

Avoid using a face masks with valves because these are used to protect you from dust and do not offer protection from COVID-19.

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

Visors

If you wear a visor it does not provide as much protection as wearing a face mask as it does not cover your nose and mouth. It is not recommended to wear a visor or face shield instead of a mask. They should only be worn if you have an illness or impairment that makes wearing a face mask difficult.

Read more about visors on the HSE website.

How do I use a face covering?

You should always wash your hands before putting on your face covering. 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).

When you are removing your face covering, use 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 and safety requirements for face coverings.

Page edited: 2 March 2022