Covid-19 Australia: Victoria advises masks indoors as cases soar
Australian states are ‘strongly’ urging people to mask up again and businesses to reconsider working from home as Covid infections soar.
Australians have been ‘strongly’ urged to resume wearing masks indoors in shops and Victorians are urged to reconsider working from home as virus cases rise over the winter.
But authorities stopped short of a mask mandate that would require people to wear protection against Covid-19 when indoors.
“Mask wearing in indoor and crowded environments is strongly recommended to protect you and our most vulnerable,” says the new Victorian advice.
“But there will be no change to the current face mask requirements with these new pandemic orders.”
Victoria’s Minister of Health, Mary-Anne Thomas, revealed she had defied the advice of the acting chief health officer, who was to introduce mask mandates in schools, nurseries and some shops in detail.
“The Director of Health [Ben Cowie] provided his advice and I accepted his advice, except that I chose not to extend mask-wearing mandates in some of the settings that were recommended to me,” she said.
“Thus, the advice of the director of health was to impose the wearing of masks in early childhood settings and schools, and even in retail and in certain reception establishments for workers in these areas.
“I made a decision based on the advice I had received that mandating more masks was not the most effective way to get the message across about the importance of mask-wearing.
“We need to empower Victorians to make their own decisions.”
In Victoria, masks are still mandatory on public transport and Ubers, hospitals and aged care facilities.
Hospitalizations are expected to peak at a higher rate than the summer surge in cases with Omicron BA. 4 and BA. 5 sub-variants.
The new highly infectious variants have already led to a 53% increase in the number of Victorians hospitalized with COVID-19.
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Victoria is also asking employers to consider working from home arrangements most appropriate for their workplace and employees “based on individual needs”.
“Wearing a mask, keeping up to date with your vaccinations and ensuring indoor areas are well ventilated are small but effective steps Victorians and businesses can take to manage their own risk of COVID-19 this winter,” said Ms. Thomas.
Federal Health Minister Mark Butler said he could not say how many waves of Covid there would be this year.
“I just want to be honest. I don’t think anyone knows that,” Mr. Butler told 3AW.
“You can be re-infected quite quickly. It used to be thought that if you had Covid you were bulletproof for 12 weeks. It has now been four weeks.
In New South Wales, Chief Health Officer Kerry Chant has pleaded with people to start wearing masks again amid complaints mask rules are rarely followed on public transport.
“We need to create an enabling environment to say that wearing a mask is a good thing to do,” Dr Chant said.
But NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard is also resisting calls to impose masks.
“I certainly wouldn’t want to revisit mandatory orders for a whole host of reasons. I think if you look at mental health issues,” he said.
“Go back to basic messages. Wear a mask if you can’t social distance, definitely wash your hands, wash your hands as much as possible, and stay home if you’re sick,” he said.
The Perrottet government has issued new advice on how soon people recently infected with Covid should test again if they have symptoms.
The reduced reinfection period means that people recently infected with Covid-19 will need to be tested again after 28 days if they still have symptoms.
Those who test positive after 28 days will be counted as new cases.
Dr Chant said the new advice followed the advice of the Australian Health Protection Senior Committee.
“The BA Omicron. 4 and BA. 5 sub-variants circulate widely in New South Wales. They are more capable of escaping immunity acquired from previous infection and vaccination. Re-infection is more likely and possible just a few weeks after a previous infection,” she said.
“We urge people who have recently had Covid-19, even if they came out of isolation in the last four weeks, not to be complacent. If you develop symptoms again, be sure to test and to isolate.