Gardaí have been instructed to wear face masks in situations where they cannot maintain social distancing and where they may be in close contact with someone for more than 15 minutes.

Garda Headquarters said gardaí on duty would wear the masks in enclosed situations such as in patrol cars, public transport, shops or someone's home.

However, the masks are not necessary for open air policing, such as foot or bike patrols or on checkpoints.

The masks were distributed this morning.

Minister for Health Simon Harris has also confirmed that he had signed amended regulations enabling gardaí to enforce when necessary the new restrictions on movement.

Speaking on RTÉ's Morning Ireland, Minister Harris said the rules were not there to catch anyone out, but to keep people safe.

Garda Headquarters also said gardaí were maintaining a graduated response to policing the restrictions, engaging, explaining and encouraging people to abide by the regulations.

It said enforcement remains "a last resort and only when all other avenues have been exhausted in most cases".

Directions must also be sought from the Director of Public Prosecution for all suspected Covid-19 offences before a person can be charged and brought before the courts.