MANDATORY MASK wearing has today ended in Ireland, with the measure being replaced with advice in certain settings.
Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly made the announcement last week, and also said that public health measures in early to secondary level education can also end.
Up until today, mask wearing had been mandatory on public transport, in taxis, retail and other indoor public settings, and by staff in hospitality settings.
In schools, measures such as pods and mask wearing were also present.
"The current epidemiological profile of COVID-19 continues to provide a broadly stable and positive outlook," Minister Donnelly said.
"The advice from NPHET to remove mandatory mask wearing is a key indicator that we are moving forward in terms of our ability to live with COVID-19. Our ability to ease restrictions is thanks to the response and support of people across the country and our successful vaccine programme."
Despite mask wearing no longer being mandatory in certain settings, NPHET recommends that masks should still be worn in healthcare settings and on public transport where physical distancing can be difficult and where those who are more vulnerable to the impacts of Covid-19 do not always have discretion to avoid.
NPHET also noted the importance of continuing infection prevention and control measures in education, including in relation to ventilation, hygiene measures and advice to stay at home if symptomatic.
The Teachers' Union of Ireland has expressed concern over the removal of mandatory mask wearing, and said that "decision may be premature and has the potential to cause further disruption to teaching and learning."
"Of particular concern are students and staff who have underlying health issues that make them especially vulnerable in terms of COVID-19 or who live with family members who are vulnerable.
"Removal of such a key protection against infection will be an extremely worrying development for them and their families in what has already been a very stressful two years."
Tanaiste Leo Varadkar said today was another “milestone” moment in the country’s journey out of the pandemic.
He wished businesses in particular the "best of luck" with the changes.
"It’s a big day for many businesses and workers as economic life begins to return to normal," he said.
"Staff and customers who want to continue to wear a mask should of course continue to do so. We know that many people will be nervous about this latest step in our journey with Covid, especially the medically vulnerable.
"For those commuting today, you are not legally required to wear a mask on public transport anymore, however we are still recommending that you do."