Masks will remain a feature of society in Melbourne for at least the medium term, with no date in sight to ease rules on mandatory face coverings in public.
Premier Daniel Andrews said on Sunday that the state government would err on the side of caution given the positive effect masks had on the rate of COVID-19 transmission.
Mr Andrews said the cost of wearing masks was low and the reward was high.
“There is a likelihood that at a point in the future we don’t need to have compulsory masks or we alter the settings in which you need to use them,” he said.
“But I have got to say this – I am going to be a holdout on this … My personal view [is masks are] high reward, low cost.
“It’s a pain, no one enjoys it. But compared to being locked at home, compared to people becoming gravely ill or becoming ill and not being able to shake this … masks are something we should continue to do.”
Mr Andrews said masks could play an even more important role when restrictions were eased and people were interacting more often.
Leading infectious diseases professor Sharon Lewin, from the Doherty Institute, said international studies had shown masks to be an effective method of curtailing the spread of the virus. She said they stopped asymptomatic people who might not know they are infected from passing it on to others.
“Masks have been a really important intervention in Victoria. It is very hard to quantify exactly how much benefit masks gave because we introduced them at the same time as we also introduced stage four lockdowns,” Professor Lewin said on ABC television.
“I think I actually personally thought it would be really difficult to introduce masks and I thought it would be a real intrusion, but surprisingly, having lived through this, it is a low-cost intervention, and I think with high returns. I think masks are going to be here for a while.”
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Paul is a reporter for The Age.