Members of the public who refuse to wear face coverings in shops could face a fine of up to €2,500 or six months in prison.
The new legislation comes into effect from today (Monday) to make face coverings compulsory in shops and shopping centres, along with hairdressers, cinemas and museums.
There are exemptions for people who have a ‘reasonable excuse’ not to wear masks.
Children under 13 are exempt from the rule, as are people who cannot put a face covering on because of a physical or mental illness. Those who need to communicate with someone who has difficulties communicating, are providing care to a vulnerable person or are taking medication also do not have to wear the coverings.
Masks have already been mandatory on public transport.
From today, it will also be mandatory for all retail staff to wear a face covering unless there is a partition or a 2-metre distance between them and customers.
The penalty for people who refuse to wear one without a reasonable excuse is a fine (of up to €2,500) or imprisonment (up to six months), or both. Retail staff have been mandated to encourage and support the use of masks, but gardaí may be called as a ‘last resort’ in the event of non-compliance.
“We know that most people are already wearing face coverings and we hope to see even greater uptake over the coming days,” said Dr Ronan Glynn, Acting Chief Medical Officer.
“Time and again people have shown their willingness to follow public health guidance in the interest of protecting each other from this disease. Wearing a face covering is just one more way in which people can demonstrate their solidarity with one another as we seek to suppress the spread of COVID-19.”