Measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19

Q. What can I do to protect myself and others from the virus?

Get vaccinated

One of the most effective ways to protect yourself and others from the virus is to get fully vaccinated (ie complete your primary vaccine schedule).  Get your booster vaccine if you are eligible – being vaccinated offers good protection against severe illness and hospitalisation and lowers the risk to you and others. 

Vaccines, however, do not always prevent people who are fully vaccinated from becoming infected (called a breakthrough infection) or from spreading the virus to other people who may develop serious illness. This may include people who are not vaccinated and or those who are in Very High- Risk Groups.  Therefore, in order to protect yourself and others remember to always;

Clean your hands regularly

  • Handwashing is one of the best ways to protect yourself and others from getting sick with COVID-19.

Wear a mask/face covering

  • When required by legislation:
    • You must wear a mask/face covering in healthcare settings, indoor retail and on public transport (see here)
  • For situations where wearing a mask helps to protect yourself and others from the virus such as:
    • In crowded or poorly ventilated settings (especially indoors)
    • in places/situations where it is difficult to keep a distance of 2 metres from others.
    • If you have, or are meeting someone who has, an underlying medical condition, or are taking medications (Very High Risk Groups), that may weaken the immune system you should continue to follow existing public health guidelines including wearing a well fitted surgical face mask
  • Confirmed cases, symptomatic individuals and close contacts who are greater than 13 years old are advised to should use a well-fitted medical grade (surgical) or FFP2 face mask. Please see here for further information.
    • Children aged 9-12 years old who are confirmed cases, symptomatic or close contacts should wear a well fitted mask as frequently as is reasonably practical.  A medical grade mask (surgical mask)  is preferable, if it fits the child well; otherwise a well-fitting cloth mask can be worn. Please see here for further information. 

Avoid being in overcrowded poorly ventilated spaces

  • There is evidence that COVID-19 outbreaks occur more commonly in crowded indoor spaces, and that poor ventilation may increase the risk of transmission in these settings by facilitating the spread of liquid respiratory particles over longer distances.
  • Therefore, to reduce the risk of transmission avoid overcrowded poor ventilated spaces and if you are indoors where possible improve ventilation by opening windows and doors to let fresh air in or using mechanical ventilation. (see here)

Keep your distance from others

  • Keep a distance of at least 2 metres at all times from others, this is particularly important for people who are at higher risk of getting sick

Cover your coughs and sneezes

  • It is really important to cover your mouth and nose when you cough or sneeze, using a tissue or the inside of your elbow, to dispose of the tissue after use and to clean your hands regularly.

Clean environmental surfaces regularly

  • Clean frequently touched surfaces like tables, countertops, handles, doorknobs, phones, keyboards, toilets, light switches and sinks regularly

Q. When should members of the public wear a surgical face mask?
Confirmed cases, symptomatic individuals and close contacts who are greater than 13 years old are advised to should use a well-fitted medical grade (surgical) or FFP2 face mask. Please see here for further information.

Surgical masks are recommended for people who are in high risk and very high-risk cohorts especially when in crowded outdoor spaces or confined indoor community spaces. This is as an additional form of protection for the wearer against inhalation of or contact with infectious respiratory particles.

These recommendations do not apply to residential care facilities, nursing homes or hospitals as the requirements for these groups of people are addressed in specific guidance for those settings.

Surgical masks are not recommended for use by other members of the public.

 Q. When should children wear a face mask/covering?

The wearing of face masks/coverings by children is recommended as follows:

  • For those aged 9 years and over on public transport, in retail and other indoor public settings as currently required for those aged 13 and over, with exemptions as appropriate;
  • For children in third class and above in primary educational settings.

Children aged 9-12 years old who are confirmed cases, symptomatic or close contacts should wear a well fitted mask as frequently as is reasonably practical.  A medical grade mask (surgical mask)  is preferable, if it fits the child well; otherwise a well-fitting cloth mask can be worn. Please see here for further information. 

 Q. Can I transmit the virus to other people when I have no symptoms

Yes, available information indicates that infected people can transmit the virus when they are both symptomatic (showing symptoms) and when they are asymptomatic (showing no symptoms).  It is essential that anyone who is showing symptoms suggestive of COVID-19 (even if they are fully vaccinated) self-isolates, this includes not going to work, and contacts the HSE or their GP for referral for testing.

Q. Are there certain situations or places where the risk of spread of SARS CoV-2 is higher?
Yes, there are certain situations where the virus is more likely to spread from one person to another. These include indoor settings, especially where there are high numbers present or crowding, and poor ventilation. Ensuring adequate and appropriate ventilation may reduce some of this risk. Spread is also more likely if cloth face coverings or masks are not being used properly, and if those present are singing or shouting.  Superspreading has been seen in religious settings, as well as in other locations such as restaurants, clubs and gyms.

Q. Are there ways to reduce the risk of viruses spreading when indoors
As crowded poorly ventilated spaces, especially indoor spaces, may increase the risk of transmission, it is important ventilation is improved in all such spaces by introducing more fresh air, limiting numbers present indoors, ensuring there is sufficient space so that people can keep a physical distance from one another as well as wearing face masks in line with Government guidance.

Q. How can you improve ventilation in indoor spaces?
Room ventilation can be improved either naturally by opening windows or using mechanical ventilation. Guidance on ventilation is available here and Failte Ireland guidance for indoor hospitality/dining is here.

Q. Does everyone who comes in contact with an infectious person develop symptoms?
No not necessarily, some people may have no symptoms, others may develop only mild symptoms and some people can become seriously ill.

Q. How long after being in contact with someone who has COVID 19 and is infectious before I might get symptoms?
The time between exposure to the virus and development of symptoms of disease (e.g. cough, fever, shortness of breath, loss or alteration of taste, loss of sense of smell) is known as the incubation period. The incubation period for COVID-19 is generally about 5-6 days, however, it can be up to 14 days. It is now known that during the incubation period, those who are infected can spread the virus to other people. Transmission of the virus before any symptoms (pre-symptomatic) can occur. This transmission can happen 1-3 days before onset of symptoms.

Q. Are some people more at risk of becoming very ill with COVID 19 than others?
Anyone can get COVID-19 but some people are at higher risk of getting seriously ill if they get COVID-19.  There are two levels of risk: high risk and very high risk. People at high risk include people over 60 and people with underlying medical conditions, including heart disease, high blood pressure and diabetes.  People at very high risk include people over 70 and people with certain underlying medical conditions, for example people on dialysis or who are having chemotherapy. A list of those at high and very high risk is available on the HSE website, as well as advice on the public health guidelines you should follow if you are in these risk categories.

Last updated: 17th January 2022