As Australia’s most populated states teeter on the brink of fresh and potentially devastating COVID-19 outbreaks, the question is simple: To mask or not to mask?
For Victoria, the answer was simple.
After 60 days free of community coronavirus transmission, the sudden shock of eight new cases in just 24 hours prompted swift and certain action.
Masks were declared mandatory indoors in Victoria from 5pm Thursday for anyone leaving their home, Acting Premier Jacinta Allan announced.
“If you are planning to leave your home at the moment, we ask people to carry their masks with them; we are now asking them to wear a mask if they are indoors in any location which is not their private home,” she said.
But in NSW, where 10 cases of community transmission were reported on Thursday on top of another 18 on Wednesday – 28 in just 48 hours – it has been a very different response.
Most of the infections are linked to the northern beaches cluster which erupted earlier this month and now totals 144 – but the source of a number of the infections remains a mystery.
The advice which has followed from the state’s docotors is unequivocal – make masks mandatory, immediately.
“Making masks mandatory sends a strong signal to the community about the importance of wearing masks to reduce the spread of the virus,” AMA NSW president Dr Danielle McMullen said on Thursday afternoon.
“We are teetering on the brink of an explosion of COVID-19 in NSW. We need to employ every defence we have against this and we need to do it now if we want to avoid a harsh lockdown later.”
However Premier Gladys Berejiklian continues to resist making mask mandatory.
“Here in NSW, we always try and strike the right balance,” she said.
“This is a very unpredictable, contagious disease but we also appreciate that we don’t want to put more burdens on our citizens than we need to.
“It’s a very fine line.”
Apparently not as other states and territories close their borders to many residents of NSW.