Almost 90% of GPs want mask mandates

Yasmin Clarke

writer

Yasmin Clarke

Data analyst; Journalist

Yasmin Clarke

 
Mask up, Australia!

The majority of the 477 GPs surveyed this month by Healthed say Australia should reintroduce mask mandates for crowded, indoor settings.

While enthusiasm for the third and fourth jab seems unexpectedly low, most of the country is now double vaccinated.

While this trend worries public health experts, it seems that many Australians are determined to put the pandemic firmly behind them by returning to the workplace, filling up theatres and cafes, and getting ‘back to normal’.

The pandemic, however, has not left Australia behind, with over 100 deaths and 28,000 new infections every day.

During the 2021 pandemic peak, many states and territories introduced mandatory face masks in all public indoor settings, including retail, schools, supermarkets, theatres, aged care facilities, places of public worship and for front-of-house hospitality staff.

But, despite high case numbers this year, most states and territories are only requiring people to wear face masks in limited settings, such as public transport, hospitals, and other high-risk facilities.

According to a Healthed survey conducted on 2 August, the majority of Australian GPs think this trajectory needs to be reversed, with 87% answering ‘yes’ to the question: ‘Do you think we should have ongoing mask mandates for crowded, indoor settings or places with vulnerable people?’

“Now is not the time to take our foot off the pedal,” RACGP president Adjunct Professor Karen Price told Healthed. “As a community, we need to band together and bring down the case numbers. Everyone has a role to play here, and I urge everyone to get vaccinated and boosted, and wear a mask and socialise in well ventilated spaces.

“The current high COVID-19 case numbers across Australia are putting a tremendous strain on our health system. GPs are working hard to limit the spread of COVID-19, but we can’t do it without the help of Australians.”

Professor Michael Toole AM, a retired epidemiologist, and the Associate Principal Research Fellow at Burnet Institute, said “of course” Australia should have mask mandates.

“It’s becoming a bit late,” he told Healthed. “Masks should have been mandated earlier in winter. But there’s no political appetite for it at the moment anywhere in the country. There’s no support from labour or liberal. They’ve all basically closed their ears.”

A study published in PLOS in July this year by the Burnet Institute found that the mask mandates in Victoria in 2020 produced a 22 – 30% reduction in the effective covid reproduction ratio.

In July this year, Dr Omar Khorshid, the outgoing president of the Australian Medical Association, told The Guardian that “that mask mandates are required” and it’s “quite likely we will have a period of mask mandates in certain states”.

Attend the upcoming Healthed webcast on 16 August to participate in the next GP survey.

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Yasmin Clarke

writer

Yasmin Clarke

Data analyst; Journalist

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