Immunologist Professor Liam Fanning has said mandatory face masks on public transport may not make any difference to the current wave of Covid-19.
Speaking on Newstalk Breakfast, Prof Fanning said mandatory face masks may not make a big difference given the current infection trajectory.
It was very difficult to quantify the actual impact of masks, he added.
The fact that so few people now wear masks, and also that many wear them incorrectly, meant it was difficult to gauge how effective they were at cutting down on transmission.
“The actual seal that you have on most masks now is probably not sufficient to effectively cut down on transmission.
“I think there’s some comfort for people when they’re wearing a mask, but it’s not a shield.”
The bottom line was that people needed to get the vaccine and the booster, Prof Fanning said.
Meanwhile, virologist Dr Gerald Barry has called on the Government to be more proactive in making the public aware of the impact of new more transmissible variants of the virus.
There needs to be greater acknowledgement that the virus is still causing a “huge burden”, he told RTÉ Radio’s Morning Ireland.
Better surveillance of levels of the virus in the community were needed, he said, but added that modelling was difficult because not all cases were being reported.
People should be encouraged to report when they tested positive, he said.
The rising numbers in hospitals were a reflection of the increase in incidents of the virus in the general population, Dr Barry explained, adding this wave was the same as was being experienced in other countries.
He said the increased number of cases is having an impact on the hospital system and will impact vulnerable people.
When asked if the wearing of face masks should become mandatory again, he said it was too late as it was like closing the door after the horse had bolted.
“This wave was completely predictable six-to-eight weeks ago.
“Masks will not have an impact at this stage, it’s too late to do anything about it at this stage. A month ago the public should have been warned and encouraged to wear masks.”