Here come the skeptics: Masks will prevent basic transmission so why is everyone up in arms?

Here come the skeptics: Masks will prevent basic transmission so why is everyone up in arms?

Words by Tom Parker

The closet commentators have come out to play.

Ever since Premier Daniel Andrews announced that from midnight on Wednesday it will be mandatory for Victorians to wear masks, closet commentators have arisen to shower the decision with their critique.

“Dictator Dan Andrews is at it again, VOTE HIM OUT!” wrote one antagonist on Twitter.

“Where is our civil liberties? I guess they don’t exist no more,” another Tweet said.

Outside of that, some have referred to the current Andrews government as “AfDanistan” in light of the announcement.

Skeptics have arrived with a full head of steam. Victoria’s COVID-19 relapse fueled initial frustrations and as peoples’ civil liberties were further encroached, frustrations have boiled over. Now that it is compulsory for face masks to be worn for teenage and adult Victorians living in metropolitan Melbourne and Mitchell Shire, many can’t take it anymore. To put it simply, some people are losing patience in the Andrews government.

Evidence of government ineptitude has flown in via the public housing mismanagement, while hotel quarantine breaches which saw hotel security workers take COVID-19 back to their families, hasn’t helped the situation either.

The dissonance from one situation reverberates into another as the dominoes fall but Andrews must be given breathing space. There’s a degree of human misconduct surrounding COVID-19’s resurgence as people rebel against the rules. While for Andrews, the situation is unprecedented; a pandemic is unprecedented and there must be compassion for what the Premier is dealing with.

From here, it’s a matter of what’s done is done. The most important thing is maximising peoples’ safety in line with the current circumstance. If wearing a mask is currently the most effective response, then that’s what we have to do. There’s no point lambasting on social media – firing off cynical tweets behind your cartoon Twitter alias – now is the time for unity and to have trust in the decision makers.

Your glasses will get fogged up and your beard might have to go but a mask’s effectiveness to prevent basic transmission should far outweigh any petty inconveniences.

Australian Infectious Disease physician and researcher, Professor Sharon Lewin, told Channel Nine this morning that there’s enough evidence from the current spread of COVID-19 to suggest that masks do work.

“They play a role in protecting someone from becoming infected,” she explained. “But they also play an important role in stopping someone who is infectious from spreading to other people. We’ve known that for a long time so we have told people if they’re symptomatic don’t go to your doctor without a mask.

“What we hadn’t appreciated is how common people are infectious when they have absolutely no symptoms,” she continued. “The only way to deal with that is universal mask-wearing.

“We have much better evidence just over the last two to three months that this does work.”

So what else do you need to know?

While the general FAQ says that masks must be worn outside by people of metropolitan Melbourne and Mitchell Shire, children below the age of 12 do not have to wear a mask. People living in regional Victoria and who do not live in Mitchell Shire will not need to wear masks outside, however they are recommended.

So if you’re going outside for any of the four reasons that you are allowed – study or work, providing medical care or caregiving, shopping for essentials or when exercising – you need to be wearing a mask. But if you intend to go for a run as part of your exercise, you don’t have to.

People with a specific medical reason are also exempt. If wearing a mask stops you from doing your job then that is reason you are exempt from wearing one as well.

The main requirement is to ensure that your face is covered so if you have another device, like a bandana or a scarf that can cover your face, then that is fine. Chemists stock masks but if you’re after something more durable, there are Melbourne not-for-profits making reusable masks that support charity. You can also make your own mask. Check out a video on how to do that below.

From midnight on Wednesday July 22 onwards, there is a $200 fine for not wearing a mask or covering your face in public.

Find out where you can get yourself a locally-made, reusable mask here

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