‘Get the mask out of the cupboard’ – WHO special envoy urges people to return to mask wearing as almost 20,000 new Covid cases confirmed

It was inevitable that there was going to be an increase in cases of Covid-19 as it is “difficult to stop transmission from a person who is not wearing a mask”, according to an immunology expert.

his comes as a further 19,866 cases of Covid-19 were confirmed today. Of these, 

Some 9,324 were confirmed through a PCR test while 10,542 people registered a positive antigen test through the HSE portal.

Hospitalisations have increased by 71 people, with 1,466 Covid-19 patients hospitalised as of 8am this morning, of whom 55 are in ICU. 

Kingston Mills, professor of experimental immunology at Trinity College Dublin, said the easing of restrictions along with the emergence of a more transmissible variant BA2 has led to a huge increase in infections.

“That is the harsh reality of it. The fear factor has disappeared, and people have this feeling because we were told it was over, that we could get back to normal,” he said.

Prof Mills said while infection may not be a worry for healthy people, it can be for older people and those with underlying health conditions.

“If they still have the virus in their system, they can pass it on,” he told RTÉ’s Morning Ireland.

“Sitting two metres apart from a person with Covid is not going to make one whit of difference because this virus is so transmissible that if you cough or sneeze in a room where there are other people not wearing masks, you will get an infection.”

Prof Mills said it appears in the majority of people this virus is upper respiratory, but he added that it is resulting in serious illness for some who end up in hospital and in ICU.

It comes as the World Health Organisation Special Envoy said people should go back to wearing masks in places like shops, hospitality venues and public transport.

Dr David Nabarro said: “I would say to everybody, why not wear a mask when numbers of cases are rising like they are in Ireland right now?”

“Don’t wait for authorities to order it. Just get the mask out of the cupboard, put it in your pocket and then when you go into a place where there are other people just simply slip it on.”

Dr Nabarro said people should be especially careful when mixing in poorly ventilated areas.

“If I were in Ireland right now, I would be expecting there to be a request for mask-wearing in confined spaces where there may be crowds,” he said.

“Public transport is an example and hospitality venues that are hot and not ventilated – cellars and the like – I would be expecting those to be the kind of places where mask-wearing and physical distancing become strongly recommended.”

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