The nation’s most senior collective of medical experts has appealed to the Morrison government to issue a legally binding national mandate on wearing masks in areas where community transmission has been detected. In an open letter to the government, AMA president Dr Tony Bartone said that “it is now clear that masks reduce virus spread when worn in areas where there is community transmission”, concluding that “every Australian in current areas of community transmission must make mask use part of their daily routines”.
The AMA has also called on the national cabinet to release community transmission modelling, detailing all areas where instances of community transmission have been found, to inform the public about virus spread patterns and when and where to wear a mask.
Wearing masks in public has only recently been advised in Australia. In Melbourne, where a huge resurgence in cases has forced the city into a second lockdown, mask use will become mandatory in public from midnight on July 22. In NSW, where an outbreak that began at the Crossroads Hotel in Casula has since spread to 26 other locations across the state, the NSW government has advised people to wear masks wherever it is difficult to practise physical distancing and on public transport.
However, mask use in NSW is not yet mandatory. In a radio interview on the morning of July 22, premier Gladys Berejiklian told the ABC that she would legally mandate mask use if the health advice recommended it, but that a federal mandate would be inappropriate.