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Belfast Live
Belfast Live
Sophie McLaughlin

Northern Ireland GP on whether you should wear masks after legal restrictions lifted

A leading NI GP has said that although he believes it is the right time to take restrictions from regulations to guidance, the public should continue to wear masks indoors when possible.

On Tuesday, all Covid-19 legal restrictions in Northern Ireland were replaced by guidance including the scrapping of Covid passports in all settings and the wearing of face masks.

Dr Alan Stout, chair of the British Medical Association's GP committee in Northern Ireland, said the move marked a big step in the "journey back to normality" but that mask guidance should still be followed.

Speaking to Belfast Live, Dr Stout said: "The most important thing to remember is what the Health Minister announced earlier in the week is the removal of the legal requirement to wear the mask in an indoor setting but the guidance is still there that people should be.

"Through all of our BMA channels, we are strongly encouraging people to continue to follow that guidance - not only does it protect other people, particularly the most vulnerable around us who are still understandably extremely anxious but it also means we have now started a journey to try to get back to normality.

"It means that the journey can be relatively smooth without more problems along the way."

Dr Stout explained that although there is not a legal requirement to wear masks indoors, continuing this practice should be encouraged.

"I would say just continue as you have been doing. Everyone has got used to it and it's not a massive difficulty or imposition for the vast majority of people - it's a really simple ask for a short period of time.

"In terms of being able to protect people around us but also in terms of that continued moving on is so important, if we all do the simple things well, we will actually be ok."

Dr Stout feels it was the right time for Health Minister Robin Swann to remove all legal restrictions as we learn to live with the pandemic.

He continued: "We have to start this journey back to normality but we also have to deal with what is in front of us and the big thing that has changed and influenced us is that we know that the link between Omicron, which is the dominant circulating variant at the moment, and serious illness and death has been significantly weakened.

"We can have that confidence that people aren't coming to anywhere near as much harm."

His advice moving forward is to keep following public health advice so that we can all come through the pandemic as smoothly as possible.

"One of the real positives is that we all know more about infection control and prevention than we have ever known before. I think a lot of people, not just for Covid but for many other infections and viruses, will want to keep some of the measures over the coming time," he added.

"That is a sensible thing and is good public health advice and it will just continue to keep us all as well as possible."

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