A health expert has said mask wearing on public transport is a "no brainer" as Covid cases continue to rise in Ireland ahead of a predicted surge this winter.
Professor of Medicine and Infectious Diseases at UCD Jack Lambert told Newstalk that the health service will be overwhelmed by a "twindemic" over the coming months as patients present with both the flu and Covid.
The news comes as HSE staff have been warned to expect up to 20,000 patients with respiratory diseases this winter.
Professor Lambert said: "More people are going to be infected. More people are going to go home and spread the infection to family members.
"So, wearing a mask on public transport is a no brainer.
"It's a sensible thing to do. It's part of other mitigation strategies."
He added: "It would be nice if everyone were to just do it."
"There are consequences for catching Covid.
"Now, people are not dying like they were before in the first wave of Covid with Delta, but Omicron is much more infectious; much more people are getting infected, people are going to be out of work."
It comes after Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly said the Government has no plans to make masks mandatory again.
However, he shared his concern that a low number of people are choosing to wear masks on public transport at the moment, saying it is " something that is a concern for me ".
The number of people in hospital with Covid has "been edging" up in recent weeks, according to the HSE's Chief Clinical Officer, Dr Colm Henry. However, he added there is no sign yet of a surge.
More than 1.6 million positive Covid cases have been confirmed in Ireland in the past two weeks. There are currently 442 patients in hospital with Covid, of which 16 are in ICU.
If cases continue to rise, the Government says it could reintroduce Covid restrictions, although there are no plans to do so thus far.
It comes as a new Covid strain that's been dubbed a "nightmare variant" by some is rapidly doubling the number of infections in countries where it has been detected.
Known as XBB, the strain has been found in more than 17 countries in Asia and Europe.
The variant is fast spreading, and it appears to evade protection to those who are vaccinated or have natural immunity.
However, UC Berkeley infectious disease expert John Swartzberg told San Francisco Chronicle that the variant is "no different from the others".
Reacting to XBB being called a "nightmare", he said: "That is pretty irresponsible reporting because it's impossible to know what all these variants mean.
"We are seeing a slew of new variants that are using a similar approach to survive — they are finding ways to evade the way we get immunity from vaccines and previous infection with changes on the spike protein.
"XBB is no different from the others."
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