Coronavirus Victoria: The problem with state’s mask plea

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Coronavirus Victoria: The problem with state’s mask plea

By Stephanie Bedo

It’s no wonder people are confused when throughout the pandemic we were told from our leaders, “wearing a face mask is not recommended”.

“Wearing a mask like that is wasting a mask”.

Those were the words from Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews when talking about people wearing face masks as a precaution earlier on in the coronavirus pandemic.

And from chief medical officer Professor Brendan Murphy, “No one should go around wearing and wasting face masks please”.

It’s no wonder Victorians are confused over the new rule coming into force from midnight Wednesday.

For months Australians were told the official advice was that we didn’t need to wear face masks.

To be fair, Professor Murphy and Mr Andrews were responding to the fact there was a strain on supply.

But even back in April, Prime Minister Scott Morrison ruled them out after the National Cabinet had received advice from the medical expert panel that wearing masks was “not necessary”.

The advice was in line with recommendations from the World Health Organisation, which advised people to only wear a mask if they had COVID-19 symptoms or looking after someone who may have COVID-19.

Last month, however, WHO changed those guidelines, saying cloth masks should be used on public transport, in shops or other crowded settings.

NED-1928-When should I wear a mask? - 0

An old clip from a WHO video is circulating on social media where the organisation’s consultant for Infection Prevention Control, Christine Francis, told people they did not have to wear masks if they did not have symptoms.

A collection of old media clips, which features that one, has also been shared on Facebook thousands of times, highlighting the recent change in advice.

It also features grabs of deputy chief medical officer Dr Paul Kelly.

“In terms of mask uses in the community, we do not think that is a good idea,” he said back in April.

“Using a mask incorrectly can actually make it more dangerous.”

At the time Australia’s advice contradicted that in the US where everyone had been told to wear masks.

The footage being circulated also includes other chief medical officers, including Victoria’s Dr Brett Sutton.

“Wearing a face mask is not recommended if you are well,” he said.

Dr Emma Beckett, of the University of Newcastle, appeared on the ABC saying masks were not good for protecting yourself when out and about.

“If you don’t use them absolutely correctly, you will increase your risks and not reduce them,” she in a clip in April.

On Sunday, however, Dr Sutton said wearing a mask did make a difference.

“And having universal mask wearing is the key here, because not only are you – if you’re potentially infected – shedding less virus into the atmosphere, but the person around you, if they’re 1.5 metres away or closer, or further away, will be less exposed,” he said.

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