The Government is considering reintroducing a mask mandate following a surge in COVID-19 and flu cases.
Officials have long known that this winter would be difficult and earlier this week, the HSE’s vaccination lead Eileen Wheelan said there has been a “sharp increase” in people catching the two diseases since early December.
“The two previous winters, COVID was the dominant virus that was out there; prior to that, the influenza virus was the dominant virus.
“But this year, we’re actually seeing an interplay between both the influenza virus and the COVID virus.”
A National Crisis Management Team has been set up and Taoiseach Leo Varadkar is due to meet Health Minister Stephen Donnelly to discuss whether masks should be compulsory on public transport again.
It is a solution that UCD Professor of Medicine and Infectious Disease Dr Jack Lambert says is common sense.
“I think it’s a good idea,” he said.
“The reality is that masks don’t work 100% but they prevent the spread of respiratory viruses and there’s lots of respiratory viruses that have increased in the recent past from flu, RSV and more importantly COVID-19.
“So, I think it’s a way to minimise the transmission.”
Yesterday, there were 656 people in Irish hospitals who had tested positive for COVID-19 and the HSE expects over 900 people will be hospitalised with flu in the first week of January.
The HSE is urging everyone to make sure they are up-to-date with their COVID and flu vaccines.