Calls for mandatory masks to avoid second Sydney shutdown

29 July, 2020 by Andy Young

Independent think tank, the Committee for Sydney, has called for face masks to be made mandatory in public places in Sydney, to slow the spread of COVID-19 infections and avoid a second lockdown.

Face masks are currently mandatory for all people who leave their homes in Greater Melbourne and Mitchell Shire, and health experts across the country have backed face masks as an effective tool in slowing the spread of COVID-19.

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Chief Medical Officer, Dr Nick Coatsworth, said recently: “We need every little bit of help we can get down in Victoria at the moment, to help flatten and bend that curve down the other side. And mandatory mask wearing in public is a measure announced by the Victorian Government and we do support it.

“The idea [wearing a mask] is an imposition on someone’s freedom or individual rights, I’m not sure I can be convinced of that.

“That sort of behaviour has to stop. I acknowledge wearing a mask can be difficult and it takes some time to get used to but, in all seriousness, it is just having a mask on.”

With face masks acknowledged as being part of a suite of measures that can help slow the spread of COVID-19, Gabriel Metcalf has called on the NSW Government to make wearing a face mask in public places in Sydney mandatory.

“It’s time to require masks in Sydney. Doing so now may be our best chance to avoid a second lockdown,” Metcalf said.

“Sydney is seeing a slow increase in community transmission of COVID. The maths behind doubling rates mean that numbers can start out low and then quickly grow. Because most of the carriers are asymptomatic or mildly symptomatic there is almost certainly community transmission that is not being picked up by tests. The fear is that we could be seeing the start of a true “second wave” like Melbourne has seen.

“NSW has had an exemplary response to the pandemic and is doing an incredible job with contract tracing and testing. It may turn out that this focus on known clusters and contact tracing is enough to crush the virus. But if the numbers get large, they will overwhelm the ability of contract tracing to work. A requirement to wear masks could be an essential tool for reducing community transmission and allowing Sydney to avoid the fate of Melbourne.”

Metcalf also echoed the sentiments of Dr Coatsworth, regarding people’s resistance to being asked to wear a mask that could ultimately save lives.

“People in Sydney are still not wearing masks. Even as COVID-19 cases in Melbourne remain intractably high, and even as we see the increase in community transmission in Sydney that may foretell a true “second wave,” a deeply ingrained cultural resistance to mask-wearing has not budged.

“No one likes to wear masks. But we are all going to have to make some sacrifices to get through this pandemic. Wearing masks in public, indoor spaces is annoying, but it does not ask much of us.”

Wearing a face mask is part of the measures including social distancing, not going out if you are unwell, getting tested and hand hygiene that help to slow the spread of COVID-19.

Metcalf added that wearing a face mask could mean Sydney avoids a nightmare second lockdown.

“The real hope here is that if enough people wear masks, we can avoid the more draconian options – avoid a second lockdown and a repeated start-stop-restart cycle which would devastate our economy and cause intense hardship with consequences for years.

“Throughout the pandemic we have repeatedly heard the phrase ‘there are no easy choices’. This is one of those times. Getting people to wear masks isn’t the only solution, but it could play a pivotal role in driving down infections and getting NSW back to normality sooner and faster.”