Medical experts give their verdict on the value of face masks

Do we or don’t we? And if we do, when should we wear a face mask and what type?

What medical experts say about face masks

In Singapore and Germany, you can be fined for not wearing a face mask in public. In France, it is compulsory to wear a face mask in high schools and on public transport, and businesses can refuse service to customers who are not wearing a mask. In the US, the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention recommends wearing cloth face coverings in grocery stores, pharmacies, and petrol stations.

In Australia?

The official advice is this: “Most people will not benefit from wearing a surgical mask.

“Masks are of benefit to people who are sick, so they don’t cough on others, and healthcare workers who have frequent, close contact with sick people

“Surgical masks in the community are only helpful in preventing people who have coronavirus disease from spreading it to others. If you are well, you do not need to wear a surgical mask as there is little evidence supporting the widespread use of surgical masks in healthy people to prevent transmission in public.”

And the national cabinet just rejected a proposal to make face masks compulsory.

It’s pretty unequivocal.

But some experts now see a role for masks, especially on public transport, where we can be exposed at close range to others for extended periods, the conditions likely to enable virus transmission.

Chief medical officer Professor Brendan Murphy told Nine Media that the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee had recognised that “in a public transport situation, people may choose to wear masks when up close to other people and we recognise that is not an unreasonable thing to do”.

University of New South Wales (UNSW) infectious disease expert at the Kirby Institute, Professor Raina MacIntyre, backed the use of masks where “you see people breaking the social distancing requirements all the time”. This includes on public transport and in supermarkets.

“Every country, particularly ones that are going to open up and get things going again, is going to have to consider it ... It's a low-risk intervention and there's a potential benefit,” she said.

“First, it will prevent someone who is infected from emitting virus into the air around them; and second, it may well protect people from inhaling contaminated air or being sprayed by sneezes and coughs.”

Prof. MacIntyre said she understood why cities with a higher disease incidence than in Australia demanded the wearing of face masks.

“This is because COVID-19 can be transmitted from people without symptoms or in the two days before they develop symptoms. So, if mask use is high in the community, it may prevent onward transmission from infected people and also protect well people.”

UNSW professor of epidemiology Mary-Louise McLaws told SBS News she also backed the use of “non-medical grade” masks on Australian public transport.

“They provide somewhere between 10 and 60 per cent protection compared to a medical-grade mask. One would say that's not enough in hospitals ... but in conditions such as public transport, that's better than no protection at all.”

Clinical researcher Dr Meg Jardine, of The George Institute for Global Health, says wearing a mask can be “an altruistic act that helps prevent you contaminating your environment”.

“The more virus fragments you have in your environment, the more likely you are to be affected,” she says.

“If you can just reduce the number of fragments, you're going to reduce risk.”

The ABC's Dr Norman Swan told the Coronacast podcast that wearing masks on public transport could help reduce the already low risk of transmission in Australia “and you could be a bit more relaxed about social distancing on rail trips”.

All the experts emphasise that medical-grade masks must be preserved for use by professionals on the frontline in clinics and hospitals.

“We don't recommend that members of the community use N95 or P2 masks because we need to keep them for our frontline medical workers,” occupational hygienist Kate Cole told ABC News.

“It's kind of wasting that mask and taking it away from the people that need it the most,” Ms Cole said.

While there is some support for mask use in places where social distancing is difficult, there are also warnings about the dangers of using masks.

University of Newcastle professor of nursing Brett Mitchell told The Guardian that unless you have medical instruction on how to use a mask, you could make things worse for yourself.

“The front of the mask will ‘catch’ pathogens. Every time you adjust or touch your mask, your hands could become contaminated. Everything you then touch could become contaminated,” Prof. Mitchell says.

“It’s important not to touch the mask until you remove it,” implores the CSIRO.

“Using a mask incorrectly can actually make it more dangerous,” agrees deputy chief medical officer Professor Paul Kelly.

Dr Jardine says as soon as a mask is removed it must be treated as a “contaminated object”.

She says cloth masks are generally not quite as good as surgical masks, and their effectiveness depends on the number of layers in the mask.

“You need multiple layers, a fine weave, high thread count, water-resistant material and good fit around the face,” Prof. MacIntyre says.

“They should be washed daily or can become contaminated.”

“Another important thing to be aware of is not to wear a mask with an exhalation valve, because a mask like that filters the air coming into your mask but not the air going out,” Ms Cole said.

“So, if you're sick and you're wearing a mask with a valve and you sneeze or cough, for example, it's just coming straight out of the mask unfiltered.”

Dr Jardine warns that the slower airflow through masks can be an issue for people with breathing difficulties.

And most experts are concerned by the “false sense of protection” masks can provide.

Ms Cole says masks are not “a silver bullet”, just one way to minimise risk.

“Physical distancing, staying at home, washing your hands and not touching your face are more effective than simply wearing a mask,” she says.

“Wearing a mask can't supersede all those other things.”

Will you be wearing a mask in public?

If you enjoy our content, don’t keep it to yourself. Share our free eNews with your friends and encourage them to sign up.

RELATED ARTICLES

    Disclaimer: This article contains general information about health issues and is not advice. For health advice, consult your medical practitioner.





    COMMENTS

    To make a comment, please register or login
    tiggr55
    1st Jun 2020
    4:18pm
    Before we start comments on face masks can I please ask that we stop using Americanisms at the beginning or start of the headline it was stated from the Get Go this is rubbish,does that mean at the end we finish with give stop what nonsense.
    As far as masks are concerned these are a total waste of time unless they are a completely sealed unit,even then as soon as you touch it you transfer any pathogens onto your fingers and then to whatever else you touch.They may help with limiting further spread from infected people or give some limited protection to those in the front line but are otherwise a waste of time,especially to those who seem to like wearing without covering their noses
    Realist
    1st Jun 2020
    4:33pm
    @tiggr55 Excellent Comment, The wearing of masks is counter-productive in stemming the transmission of the disease. Wearing one with a beard, borders on stupid.
    Maggie
    1st Jun 2020
    5:14pm
    You can't turn the tide I am afraid. And nor should we want to . Languages in use are constantly changing, and are therefore called "living languages. If you think a bit you will realise how English has changed since you were young. It will continue to be influence by other languages than American English.
    Your further comments largely repeat what has already been said in the article.
    Brissiegirl
    1st Jun 2020
    5:18pm
    Eventually all persons who want to use public transport will be required to use them or the sparsely occupied transport system will financially collapse.

    If particles are limited from getting out of a mask, then they're probably going to have a harder time getting in.

    The questions around masks all began because we were suddenly in short supply. If we had a surplus, no doubt the health directives would be more educational, e.g. how to wear a mask, the benefits of a mask and the financial benefits of keeping busy public transport safe.
    Laura52
    1st Jun 2020
    5:25pm
    Agreed 100 percent Brissiegirl
    leek
    1st Jun 2020
    7:00pm
    Yep Brissie girl 100% correct. Australia ran out of masks late January. I got a supply from work, and the boss told me he got the very last box in Victoria at that time and that was late January. I tried to buy some after that and there was nothing around.
    So of course the medical big wigs said, don't worry about masks. yes if we had them in abundance then it would have been a different story.
    So when i went to the shops wearing one of the only few masks that was available to the general public at the time, everybody frowned at me.
    I didn't care. I am a home care worker with a very severly disabled client. I had to do what I could to stay healthy for her.
    Rosret
    1st Jun 2020
    7:00pm
    Yes Brissiegirl - I totally agree with you also.
    Laura52
    2nd Jun 2020
    8:08am
    Very wise thing to do Rosret, I work in a Pharmacy so I see myself as a carrier and patients as carriers too..and of course there are people coughing etc everywhere in the Pharmacy....so much complacency around
    Sceptic
    7th Jun 2020
    12:23pm
    So we completely ignore the results from Taiwan and Hong Kong where everybody wore masks from the beginning. They have a combined lower death rate and t=infection rate than Australia, with a larger combined population.

    I agree that it is likely the initial shortage of masks that caused the advice that we are getting. So masks do not prevent the disease, so said the article, but health workers are to wear them as they are likely to come into contact with people with the disease, also said the article. A contradiction. If everybody wears masks the asymptomatic would also be wearing masks, thus reducing the chances of community infection. QED
    Hirajima
    7th Jun 2020
    1:09pm
    @sceptic - All spot onm, as far as I can see. Even the WHO has finally come out with this advice. Although in WA I am not currently wearing a mask, since we have no community transmission detected so far, I was wearing one for several weeks before this situation emerged and will be slapping one back on the first community case we get. Guaranteed we'll all be wearing them eventually, unless a vaccine is found, but our governments are going to hold out as long as possible until better supplies of masks are available - which they damn well better be once the thing really gets going in Australia.
    Janus
    1st Jun 2020
    4:19pm
    If you have a beard, if you don't know how to wear a mask, you don't have the disease, you don't know or have the right type of mask, or don't work closely with people who have the disease, then don't wear one!

    All you are doing is wasting material, cash and safety resources, whilst polluting the world even more.

    Other countries are making the wearing of masks mandatory, but mainly because so many people have the disease, or because it makes people feel better about the mess their governments have got them into.

    You might have some psychological, panic-based, misinformed paranoia, but then you might not want to venture outside of your cupboard wherein you are hiding. Then it is OK to wear a mask, but make sure it is a Batman mask because it will do the same amount of good. Maybe a Skywars mask would do as well.
    Lookfar
    1st Jun 2020
    6:03pm
    Hi Janus, it is true in some of your simulations, - ie there is no local disease, masks make absolutely no difference, but different if there is local infection, spreading.

    Then the issue is, not masks, or masks, but the efficacy of masks.

    I have long advocated that the masks be saturated with an anti Viral chemical, - eg Borax, that will kill the virus as it induces a highly Alkaline envrionment that Viruses have no evolutionary possibility to overcome.

    To my mind, the emphasis should be on how long a mask can be effective.

    Against Viruses, not germs

    Of course our corporations will not like that, they will want you to buy as many masks as you can afford without starving your children, - or at least making them too hungry for you to bear,
    But your (and my) welfare will be tied directly to how efficient our masks are. = when we need masks.

    This is not rocket science, virtually any university can research on how efficient a mask can be, - probably most hospitals, - get onto them, ask how efficient a Borax or other high alkaline substance can be in comparison with a plain paper mask, - keep asking until they tell you.. get back to us on YLC please.
    jan
    1st Jun 2020
    4:32pm
    I think an experiment should be conducted before any consumption is made on whether mask protect us from the virus. Mask must be preventing all the nurses and doctor's from getting the virus...There would have to be an experimented on mice or Tiggar.....to determine whether mask can prevent us catching the virus.
    Lookfar
    1st Jun 2020
    7:01pm
    Good reply jan, certainly for a vaccine, but possibly not quick enough when the Pandemic strikes, as then you have all the self interested (Obsessed) economic interests howling for their money, = then, you can have only Lock/down, - which they hate, - sigh.
    Farside
    1st Jun 2020
    7:31pm
    Jan, you asked for an experiment, well it has been done and concluded masks work. See this experiment at HKU.
    https://fightcovid19.hku.hk/hku-hamster-research-shows-masks-effective-in-preventing-covid-19-transmission/
    Laura52
    1st Jun 2020
    4:50pm
    Being trained in aseptic, sterile techniques and compounding medications, including toxic and non toxic medication in a pharmacy sterile suite ( worked in one for 3 years) , masks are essential, to prevent any bacteria or viral shedding from being transferred into an intravenous bag. A mask decreases the bacterial and viral load. Proper use of putting a mask on and off with sterile techniques, ie washing hands with soap or an alcohol based soap before putting a mask on and before taking a mask off. Hands or gloves should not touch the mask. Education is required. It is a personal choice and as long as one wears a proper mask and employs proper sterile techniques, it is not a sense of false security.
    jan
    1st Jun 2020
    4:55pm
    Thank you Laura, I believe mask can pretect us.
    Hirajima
    1st Jun 2020
    4:58pm
    It's a personal choice for now. Chances are that in Australia, too, unless a vaccine is found, we'll all be required to wear them eventually.
    Laura52
    1st Jun 2020
    5:08pm
    I agree Jan and Hirajima. At the hospital, I was taught a mask decreases the bacterial and viral load from one person to another as well as not contaminating prepared medication. But please remember one can still get the disease via transmission into the eyes, droplet and aerosol form, as well as via the hands. In an enclosed space, a mask will help to decrease the viral load. Regarding cloth masks, as long as there are 3 layers, they do provide a barrier, better than nothing. Masks have been made mandatory for a reason overseas in supermarkets and pharmacies, due to community transmission, especially from super spreaders, and asymptomatic carriers. A cloth mask needs to be handled even with sterile infection control procedures before and after use and washed, hot setting, with soap etc and after drying, wash your hands or sanitise and put it into a sanitised plastic bag ( sprayed with isopropyl alcohol or glen 20, alcohol needs to be above 64 percent to 70 % as anything higher than that, the alcohol will evaporate).
    Lookfar
    1st Jun 2020
    6:50pm
    Laura do you agree with me?, and do you think the Borax might be better than the alcohol solution, on a number of questions?
    Laura52
    1st Jun 2020
    6:56pm
    Yes forgot the Borax, Lookfar...I remember your post...definitely to consider!
    Lookfar
    1st Jun 2020
    7:41pm
    yes laura, then your hands are disinfected when you spread the Borax solution, but even more interesting (imho) is the potential of negative ions in your surgery or whatever, - to target those negatively charged molecules and remove them from your room.

    Negative ions are long described to make you feel energised, - as when near a waterfall, but negative ions, in a hospital room, can if correctly placed/sprayed, sweep the positive ions coating the virus onto the positive plate where they are stuck.

    This offers interesting possibilities for Doctor's surgery's and such to be free of the Virus, kindly see,
    https://www.nature.com/articles/srep11431

    Cheers.
    Hirajima
    1st Jun 2020
    7:54pm
    @Lookfar - very interesting, especially that Nature reference. Not so sure about loading masks up with Borax - couldn't that be toxic?
    Hirajima
    1st Jun 2020
    4:57pm
    Haha, it really is amusing how Australia makes such a job of work out of avoiding masks, when the clear and growing evidence around the world is that even fabric, non-medical masks will assist in reducing (no, not eliminating, not even N95s give that guarantee!) the transmission of viruses. Let's face it, we cool Aussies are just seeking any flimsy justification we can for avoiding looking uncool like all those people in numerous countries to our north. Better dead and cool, hey? (By the way, I am putting a humorous spin on this, but I really do think we all try soooo hard to avoid the inevitability... heck, even 100 years ago Aussies wore masks to reduce the Spanish flu!)
    Laura52
    1st Jun 2020
    5:10pm
    Agreed 100 percent
    Waiting to retire at 70
    1st Jun 2020
    5:08pm
    I wear a face mask when:

    1. I'm on public transport;

    2. When I'm walking along the street where too many people have their faces buried in their 'Dumb' phones and leaving social distancing to everyone else; and

    3. Anytime I'm in a crowd (which isn't often as I avoid times when they are happening) when social distancing becomes difficult.

    Even though "the national cabinet just rejected a proposal to make face masks compulsory" and some medical professionals are of the opinion they will not help me,
    I DON"T find that "PRETTY UNEQUIVOCAL".

    Why do I not agree and continue to wear a face mask?

    Hmmm!

    How do I know those without face masks are without corona virus?

    How do I know those without face masks aren't asymptomatic?

    When it can be guaranteed that EVERY person without a mask is WITHOUT CORONA VIRUS, then I'd be happy to turn in my supply of masks. Until then I would find the risk too high; as medical professionals in other jurisdiction think it is necessary and, in some cases, foolhardy to not do so.
    Laura52
    1st Jun 2020
    5:10pm
    Agreed 100 percent. You do what is right for you and how you feel, to feel safe and comfortable. There is a problem with social distancing and complaceny happening, right now.
    Hirajima
    1st Jun 2020
    5:11pm
    Great response! My thinking exactly. But too many will die rather than wear one. Silly really. The main issue will be when everyone is coughing and sneezing all over supermarkets and still refusing to wear one. I hope that at that point, managers will ask them to leave.
    Brissiegirl
    1st Jun 2020
    5:22pm
    “The front of the mask will ‘catch’ pathogens. Every time you adjust or touch your mask, your hands could become contaminated. Everything you then touch could become contaminated,” Prof. Mitchell says.

    So masks do "catch" pathogens.
    Lookfar
    1st Jun 2020
    7:20pm
    Right on Brissiegirl, so if you have a Virus killer in your mask, - eg Borax, it will kill any Virus you
    'catch'. - and if it is in your clothes as well, - even more effective.

    So if you have a virus killer in your mask you may have 20 minutes, or so before the virus overwhelmes it, - by which time you can have bought your goods and gone, - but if you are All wearing Borax masks, you may be able to relax and take your time, as you and all your friends will have a Covid-19 Dead zone around you. - as you and all the rest of us, want.
    Tis only me
    1st Jun 2020
    5:22pm
    Hirajima I agree. Public transport has limited capacity under physical distancing and in NSW we've been told to drive to work if possible! Well that's practical NOT. I don't disagree that people need to be careful about sanitising and wearing masks properly etc, but it's time we all got over ourselves and thought about the greater good. People are certainly being complacent about distancing because thus far we've been comparatively lucky in Aus. We have yet to get through winter. If everyone wears a mask in public places there is a higher degree of protection for all. My mask protects you - your mask protects me. Govt just doesn't want to do any sort of backflip on their early advice.
    Laura52
    1st Jun 2020
    5:30pm
    Washing hands , sanitising etc is a must but what happens if are out in public, you just washed and sanitised your hands and then you touch a surface that may be contaminated. So, sanitisation is essential before and after touching every single thing in contact in public, if one is not at home....Just a thought that came to my mind.
    Farside
    1st Jun 2020
    5:23pm
    wearing masks in crowded spaces is about limiting spread of virus particles rather than protecting the wearer – it's altruistic behaviour. Virus particles can be exhaled some distance and the mask interrupts this flow. Yes, the particles will collect in the mask and drip onto clothing and can be spread by touch but it's less problematic than exhaling into someone's face. Masks work, see this experiment at HKU.
    https://fightcovid19.hku.hk/hku-hamster-research-shows-masks-effective-in-preventing-covid-19-transmission/
    Laura52
    1st Jun 2020
    5:26pm
    I did read about this study! Very interesting!
    Lescol
    1st Jun 2020
    6:32pm
    I typically spend half a year around asia where people wear routinely masks whenever they feel unwell and choose not to past their illness onto others. I'm gobsmacked to see that some westerners are unable to consider others. I would also not that the asian mask wearers have had a much lower C-19 death rate.
    MarLin
    2nd Jun 2020
    12:59am
    Right on, Lescol - and see my post a bit further down about Vietnam's Covid-19 stats and the wearing of face masks. "It's common sense, stupid."
    Hirajima
    2nd Jun 2020
    1:05am
    Yes, I do think Asian cultures are more community minded. Aussies are too much along the lines of, "No-one's going to tell me what to do!" (by the way, despite my nickname here, I am white Australian, not Asian... but I do appreciate how many Asian cultures do things. Well, not so much the CCP, hehe :P )
    Laura52
    2nd Jun 2020
    8:13am
    Good point Lescol and yes people in Asia wear masks when they are unwell as a matter of courtesy....and just look at Taiwan which has a similar population number as Australia!!!!
    JAID
    1st Jun 2020
    6:53pm
    We had good quality masks around the house before this pandemic became that. We routinely use them if going to the supermarket. We have not really been anywhere else. Our argument is that if it helps minimise the chances that others contract the virus where one of us does happen to get it then it is worthwhile. If it turns out that there is also a modicum of protection afforded ourselves that sounds like a worthwhile bonus.

    If we were to travel on public transport we certainly would wear masks and would do so even if the gain were only a small increase in our own isolation. Fortunately there seems to be some proof that they aid in limiting transmission to others...in that case, a serious bonus.
    Farside
    1st Jun 2020
    7:29pm
    YLC asks "Will you be wearing a mask in public?" ... no. I agree with OT Cole that "Physical distancing, staying at home, washing your hands and not touching your face are more effective than simply wearing a mask". I simply avoid crowded situations, which is actually rather easy when living in the country.
    Laura52
    2nd Jun 2020
    8:19am
    Yes all the physical distancing, washing your hands etc are imperative but not foolproof...as one can wash their hands but then the washed hands can touch a contaminated surface when another person hasn't sanitised or used physical distancing. Then, you have to remember to not touch your face and sanitise asap. Also, people are not using hand sanitisers properly and not using enough of it as I have been observing people. Nothing wrong with wearing a mask and employing the physical distancing, washing hands as all preventative measures. I also avoid crowded places and do my shopping after 7am. For the virus to spread it requires human hosts, so starve it, the number of human hosts needs to be less and less, and yes staying at home is another plan.
    Hirajima
    1st Jun 2020
    7:43pm
    A number of useful references for those who want to explore further the subject of face masks for defence against this virus (simply copy & paste the links):

    A draft research paper by a group of Yale academics:
    https://www.dropbox.com/s/6ua7j979dbqb045/masks_final_n_HF_NA.pdf

    Comparison of effectiveness of different mask types:
    https://www.asiaone.com/lifestyle/surgical-mask-paper-towel-mask-or-cloth-mask-japanese-professor-tests-which-most

    An intelligent analysis of various risks for infection and how to avoid them:
    https://www.erinbromage.com/post/the-risks-know-them-avoid-them

    A general advocacy Facebook group for mask wearing:
    https://www.facebook.com/groups/wearingiscaring/

    A Facebook group about making a particularly effective style of mask, originating on Hong Kong:
    https://www.facebook.com/HKMasksAustralia/
    MarLin
    2nd Jun 2020
    12:49am
    Argue all you like against the value of wearing a mask, but we're in Vietnam (been here caring for our 7yo niece since 1 Feb, just as we were all learning that there was some kind of highly infectious virus coming out of China), and the current stats at 1 June are: COVID-19 confirmed cases 328, with ZERO fatalities - and this is a country that borders China and has a population of some 95 million!
    Scoff if you like, and join the other naysayers who claim (without evidence) that the 'real' stats are different, but we have many friends in our hiking club who work in pharmacies, clinics and hospitals and they all vouch for the accuracy of the quoted stats - and we and our many Vietnamese relatives live here day to day amongst the general population (most restrictions have been lifted now - but personal cleanliness, hygiene and wearing face masks is a 'given' anyway) and have never seen nor heard any evidence of a single death from 'the virus' anywhere in this country!
    Why would the stats be so good when Vietnam is a relatively poor country with a very weak health system? Fast, determined action (we all got letters under our doors at the outset, telling us to stay home unless for essential shopping, eg medication, etc), and an obedient citizenry with no sense of 'self-entitlement' (no one questioned the edict - we all simply stayed home), and lastly - wearing face masks in Vietnam has long been the norm because of motorbike exhausts and other airborne bacteria and pollutants (I once suffered for several weeks with a massive abscess inside my mouth from riding a bike without a face mask - and I've worn one ever since!). So we were all covered before the virus even crossed into this country!
    How anyone in the so-called 'developed world' could ignore such clear-cut evidence and still call themselves medical professionals is quite beyond me - and I can only agree with others who think it's because Australia (UK, USA, et al) simply wasn't ready (didn't have enough masks stockpiled), so chose to ignore a safeguard that could have otherwise saved a whole world of heartache!
    Politicians and bureaucrats are never guilty of failing their constituents - or so they'd have us believe: it's simply never their fault!
    Hirajima
    2nd Jun 2020
    12:57am
    Hehe, I was just leaving a reply and you deleted the comment. Hopefully not again...

    My comment was simply to observe how valid your observations are, and how hollow the ongoing 'no masks needed' mantra is from the 'experts'. It's simply the fact that Australia has been caught with its pants down and completely unprepared for this, so the 'experts' are unwilling to admit the patently obvious because this will reveal the woeful planning to simply provide everyone with a basic, inexpensive necessity in this pandemic. Hopefully they are working on it, and by the time mask usage becomes undeniably essential, which WILL happen at some time in the future almost guaranteed, then masks will be available.
    MarLin
    2nd Jun 2020
    1:04am
    Yeah, sorry about that, Hirajima - had a couple of errant typos in the first version so deleted and re-posted. But we're definitely on the same page - as is everyone else whose vision is not impaired by desperate politicans trying to defend the fact they (in many, but admittedly not all cases) were given years to prepare for 'the next pandemic'. But of course they steadfastly put a potential vote-winning "budget surplus" ahead of public safety every time - and they've been furiously back-pedalling ever since late Jan/early Feb!
    Hirajima
    2nd Jun 2020
    1:10am
    Hehe, no worries... I think my second version was more to the point anyway. But yeah... while Australia has overall done quite well so far, here's hoping that behind the scenes someone is working hard to make up for the mask deficit. If not, there are plenty of community groups already working on fabric masks, but the government risks being made to look foolish by people taking their own widespread unilateral action as the virus ramps up... which there is still plenty of scope for it to do, unfortunately, despite everyone currently acting as if it's all over :(
    Farside
    2nd Jun 2020
    1:13am
    "an obedient citizenry with no sense of 'self-entitlement' " ... you're definitely not describing Australia. We even had symptomatic doctors and nurses attending patients, infectious public ignoring self-isolation, generally poor personal hygiene and low respect for authority and others as well as a culture of "soldiering on" when ill.

    I don't see fault with the western response due to the unknown nature of the virus but Vietnam likely benefited from not having the options available to the developed economies. Many were slow to react and so had widespread transmission before being forced to action. Australia acted faster however our plan was based upon flu and a population not having an everyday practice of wearing masks. I think the key difference with Vietnam and the other SE asian countries achieving their good outcomes was citizenry having previous exposure to dangerous viruses escaping China so prompting quick action and community response to minimise movement.

    We will learn from this experience and the experiences elsewhere and perhaps be more open to different approaches next time given the high cost of a lockdown. Don't be surprised to see a dramatic decrease in flu deaths this season as a result of improved hygiene and social distancing.
    MarLin
    2nd Jun 2020
    1:18am
    Completely agree. And I'd be happy to get back to Australia when this is all over to find as many face masks in pharmacies and supermarkets as there are (were) toilet rolls!
    Laura52
    2nd Jun 2020
    8:38am
    Thanks MarLin , 100 percent agree with you. I have been keeping a close eye on Vietnam...yes it close to China and go figure, how they have controlled the disease! Also, In Vietnam everyone looks out for one another especially for the elderly. I have advocated the use of masks from day 1 after the disease was announced as a pandemic, due to my sterile pharmacy training and working in a sterile room making so many intravenous medicines for babies and children. I explain to to customers/patients at work why I wear a mask, and that I am happy to train anyone on the correct use of masks and infection control...how to use a sanisiter and gloves properly. I do feel that with the increased awareness of hygiene and increased rates of flu vaccination, that disease won't be as pronounced...I hope.
    Hirajima
    2nd Jun 2020
    9:20am
    @Laura52 - It is so refreshing to see a health professional unequivocally advocating masks. Of course, proper training in their safe and sterile use is essential. Australia has the opportunity to take some time to educate people so that when the need is dire, it will be second nature. Unfortunately, for political butt-saving reasons, that opportunity is being squandered.
    Mez
    2nd Jun 2020
    9:41am
    As a nurse in a public hospital, we have had to go through rigorous training of using Personal Protective Equipment which includes masks, gowns, gloves and goggles to PROTECT OURSELVES FROM BECOMING SICK WITH COVID 19.
    Additionally I wear a surgical ask every time I get out of my car to the supermarket or shopping centre where there are so MANY PEOPLE WHO DO NOT WEAR MASKS NOR KEEP THEIR DISTANCE FROM ME AND I HAVE TO TELL THEM IF TOO CLOSE IN A QUEUE!
    OF COURSE MASKS PROVIDE PROTECTION BUT NONE ARE 100% BUT MASKS ARE WORN WHEN IN HOSPITALS WHEN NURSING AN INFECTIOUS ISOLATED PATIENT FOR OUR PROTECTION SO WE DO NOT BECOME SICK!
    Sick people in public should NOT be in public, FULL STOP!
    Australia should have been less reliant on overseas manufacturing but now the only one in Australia called Medcon making masks have increased production massively.
    Social distancing also is not 100% foolproof but a combination of hand hygiene, masks and distancing when when must be out in public is better than nothing.
    Farside
    2nd Jun 2020
    10:19am
    Sick people in public should NOT be in public, FULL STOP! It had to be said again Mez. Codral has a lot to answer for with it's soldiering on jingle. If this were the case then the imperative for masks in public when not in crowded situations would be substantially reduced. The surgical masks are not to protect the wearer but rather those around them as we have seen so effectively in the east asian countries. Other takeaways from Asia experience are less handshaking and hugging as well as the respect for their neighbours.
    Laura52
    2nd Jun 2020
    11:34am
    Thanks Mez, wonderful post. I just went shopping this morning and I came home so stressed and told people to social distance...people acting non chalant, like this disease is all over and done with. I wore my mask and changed my gloves between shops, hand sanitiser first, then gloves and isocol sprayed on my gloves ( force of habit from my sterile pharmacy days)... Yes, masks do not provide 100 percent protection and I can tell you now, there are many dodgy ones around, in pharmacies. This has been mentioned on the news and I know which ones they are. And yes stay home if you are sick, please. In my profession, if we get sick, we unfortunately get unpaid pandemic leave so we have to use our annual leave etc. It is what it is. In late March, my employer told staff to still go to work even with sore throat! I just ignored him and got a doctor's certificate.
    Farside
    2nd Jun 2020
    12:10pm
    A good case can be made for improving the quantity of paid sick leave so people are under less pressure to work when infectious. For example, medical receptionists typically use all sick leave allowance and take unpaid leave to cover absences resulting from exposure to contagions at work. What makes it worse is these occupations are typically part-time so the receptionists are also often sick on their days off. If they are also the parent of a young child then they get the double whammy with picking up bugs from kids.

    If we want to stop workers attending when sick then we should be looking at unlimited paid sick leave allowance (or jobseeker rate from medicare in case of casuals). Telehealth confirmations of illness bulkbilled by medicare would reduce need for sick people to leave home and the out of pockets that deter people from attending.
    Franky
    2nd Jun 2020
    1:55pm
    doing some research I believe wearing a mask is not of benefit. It's vitally important for a healthy body to have oxygen, which is lower when you breathe through a mask. They are only useful in a surgery with open wounds, blood and guts. A strong immunse system is vital, and that's what I am focusing on. Good nutrition, excercise and enough sleep.
    Farside
    2nd Jun 2020
    3:00pm
    it is pretty much established that while improper or prolonged use of tight-fitting masks, such as N95 respirators, can be restrictive, there is little to no danger of breathing in unhealthy amounts of carbon dioxide or inadequate oxygen for people wearing cloth or surgical masks.
    Laura52
    2nd Jun 2020
    3:07pm
    Well I haven't fainted yet and my brain function has been optimal whilst wearing a mask...
    MarLin
    2nd Jun 2020
    6:24pm
    Dunno what kind of 'research' you've been doing, Franky - but see my post earlier in this thread: ZERO deaths in Vietnam, mainly attributed to early intervention by the gov't and a sensible, obedient populace who all wear masks (from experience - we didn't need to be told).
    I'd even go further and say that those who talk about masks being 'dangerous if not used properly' are just scaremongering. Common sense surely tells us that even holding a piece of paper in front of your face is going to keep more rubbish out of your mouth than it lets in.
    We all put our masks on as we walk out the front door, and don't take them off again until we return - we've been doing it for years and it's not the slightest problem! On the contrary, it's very comforting to know we're at least trying to stay healthy, instead of pooh pooh'ing common sense!
    Ted Wards
    3rd Jun 2020
    9:01am
    What about the directive to stay home if you are unwell with anything? If people would follow this directive it also makes masks unnecessary. Just remember, at this stage we have had very little community transmission and the nurse from Qld has shown us what can happen when this directive is ignored. Did Nathan turner have contact with her or did he contract it somewhere else? Stay home people, you are more dangerous if do not.
    MarLin
    3rd Jun 2020
    9:53am
    Absolutely, Ted - but reality tells us that few people can stay home forever. So best to temper the "stay home" with "and wash your hands, practise safe distancing and wear a mask if you absolutely have to go out".
    Laura52
    3rd Jun 2020
    11:32am
    Agreed Ted, 100 percent, a good reminder!
    pedro the swift
    4th Jun 2020
    12:47pm
    I always wear a mask so I cant be identified during a bank heist!
    Farside
    4th Jun 2020
    1:10pm
    a Salvador Dali mask with red jumpsuit are pretty much standard uniform for money heists (Casa de Papal), do you also sing Bella Ciao?
    BillW41
    5th Jun 2020
    1:43pm
    Air molecules will get through anything even remotely porous. As my chemistry teacher was fond of telling his pupils: every day everyone in the world breathes in at least one molecule of air that passed through Julius Caesar's lungs. So, resign yourselves to masks being absolutely useless unless they are completely impervious enough to stop you breathing.
    Hirajima
    5th Jun 2020
    1:56pm
    Not really true, Bill. The thing with masks is to reduce viral load and reduce the risk of the virus being inhaled in sufficient quantities to lead to infection. It's not an all-or-nothing situation such as you describe. There is a wealth of information in this thread of conversation which is worth reading to educate yourself.
    Farside
    5th Jun 2020
    5:04pm
    actually the masks are about disrupting airflow from exhaling and so reducing the spread of viral particles; it's about protecting those around the wearer rather than the wearer and it's not new information. Surgical masks only impede air inflow by less than 2%, a respirator is required to reduce risk of inhaling viral particles.

    https://royalsocietypublishing.org/cms/asset/b86844e7-c1e4-4d3e-a58b-c6001ad07e71/rsif20090236f08.jpg
    DzW
    6th Jun 2020
    10:17am
    wearing a mask will in fact make one even one sick - it is dangerous !
    Farside
    7th Jun 2020
    12:49pm
    is there any solid evidence to support the claim being a fact or is this just another magical thinking opinion?
    BillW41
    6th Jun 2020
    10:53am
    Okay, then, It's a conspiracy to stop us eating on aircraft, thereby saving the airlines lots of money. How does one eat or drink while wearing a mask?
    Hirajima
    6th Jun 2020
    2:18pm
    Hehe :P
    Incognito
    7th Jun 2020
    1:15pm
    "I can't breath"
    Seems a lot of for and against masks here, same with the research, so I am going to make up my own mind based on what I have read (research) and that it unless they are used properly, never touched with your hands, including adjusting it, you also cover your eyes and ears then they are useless. Wearing a plastic shield maybe more appropriate but very inconvenient.
    Incognito
    7th Jun 2020
    1:16pm
    Also how do you eat and drink when out and about? Are people going to die of thirst instead?
    Hirajima
    7th Jun 2020
    1:24pm
    Dying is also very inconvenient, hehe :P
    Farside
    7th Jun 2020
    1:32pm
    you are setting the bar too high Incognito, your points are pertinent to protecting yourself however wearing a simple dust or surgical mask is enough to reduce spread by disrupting the aiflow from exhaling virus particles.
    Incognito
    7th Jun 2020
    1:34pm
    But if you have a virus then you should stay home.
    Hirajima
    7th Jun 2020
    2:02pm
    @Incognito - Not everyone who has the virus even knows they have it. The wearing of face masks by the whole community, as far as possible, is simply one of several ways in which we can reduce (not prevent) the spread of the virus. This has now been widely proven in numerous studies. If you are serious about educating yourself rather than simply making excuses for not wearing a mask, this is one of many items you can begin by reading:
    https://www.dropbox.com/s/6ua7j979dbqb045/masks_final_n_HF_NA.pdf
    Incognito
    7th Jun 2020
    2:05pm
    You are a scammer Hirajima, anyone who posts a pdf file is a worry, I will ignore your comments, you are no expert either, and how do you know I have been in contact with the virus?
    Farside
    7th Jun 2020
    3:23pm
    Icognito, you are in denial - you may not know that you have the virus if asympomatic or presymptomatic? Have a read of this definitive paper – Turbulent Gas Clouds and Respiratory Pathogen Emissions – Potential Implications for Reducing Transmission of COVID-19
    https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jama/fullarticle/2763852

    Out of interest what scam do you think Hirajima is running?
    Hirajima
    7th Jun 2020
    3:32pm
    Hehe Incognito, scammer LOL... oh dear... the PDF is a draft paper by a bunch of Yale University academics which makes plain the scientific and even the economic rationale for mask wearing. Eventually the paper will be peer reviewed and published in a journal, but this gives early access.
    Thanks for that other article, Farside, good to see a wealth of reputable information being oublished. It's our government that is in denial too, or rather, wanting to tough it out on this issue because they have been caught unprepared, unlike even the so-called Third World government of Vietnam, for example.
    Farside
    7th Jun 2020
    4:14pm
    Hirajima, it's not so much the government is toughing it out but that there is reduced risk as a result of lockdown. There is little doubt that masks will be more prominent in the advice with future outbreaks of infectious diseases.

    The learning from the asian countries is that a simple mask is as effective as TTI and lockdown strategy. Only anecdotal evidence existed before late March and this was in countries that wearing a mask for pollution or sickness was commonplace. The fact australia did not have sufficient supplies of respirators (N95) would have been a factor however the advice might have been different if the benefits of a simple mask were known at the time.

    There is little benefit for now to using masks unless you are symptomatic, in contact with someone who is symptomatic or in closed spaces where self-distancing is not possible, and if hospitalised with covid then I would rather be in Australia than Vietnam.
    Incognito
    7th Jun 2020
    4:26pm
    I could post just as many articles written by doctors, virologists, immunoligist and any other oligist too who say that masks do not help much, and they will also tell you that the severity of viruses weaken and often die out after 2-3 months. Get over it, it is over, we do not need masks, time will tell yes but if you are vulnerable stay home. Too late for masks now, so stop carrying on about them, it is not going to happen.
    Farside
    7th Jun 2020
    4:35pm
    "I could post just as many articles written by doctors, virologists, immunoligist and any other oligist too who say that masks do not help much" - please do Icognito, I am presently studying epidemiology and welcome the references.

    "severity of viruses weaken and often die out after 2-3 months." - you misunderstand, the viruses do not weaken although they will mutate, however pandemics rarely last for more than a few months as a result of herd immunity, vaccination or isolation.
    Hirajima
    8th Jun 2020
    10:48am
    @Incognito - Hehe, "stop carrying on about them" - interesting and slightly peevish turn of phrase there. I am simply sharing results of my reading with others who are then free to accept or reject what I and others say. "It's not going to happen" - did you happen to look at the videos of the weekend's protests? I think people are getting the message.

    @Farside - I agree with you mostly, but actually, it is not only aerosol transfer from symptomatics which will benefit from them wearing masks, but also from asymptomatics. Since such people don't know they are carrying the virus, that is why universal mask wearing is becoming the norm in countries where the virus is more widespread. In Australia, I agree that we are not at that point - yet. In WA right now, I am not wearing a mask. If I was living in Victoria, I would be, and many increasingly are.
    As for Vietnam - sure, if it came to hospitalisation, I would rather be in Australia; but as regards an effective campaign to stop the virus spreading, their admittedly authoritarian approach has been more successful. Of course, we Aussies have disliked authority since the Rum Rebellion, and before :)
    Farside
    8th Jun 2020
    10:54am
    Hirajima, you will see I mentioned both asympomatic and presymptomatic as COV2 virus can be shed from several days before symptoms appear, if they appear (as somewhere between 50-80% might not know of infection or aware they might be contagious). This is why wearing mask is not about protecting the wearer but those around them.
    Hirajima
    8th Jun 2020
    12:30pm
    Hehe, Farside, I think we are playing for the same team ;) I was actually referring though to your comment "There is little benefit for now to using masks unless you are symptomatic, in contact with someone who is symptomatic or in closed spaces where self-distancing is not possible", which seemed to exclude asymptomatic carriers. As for the benefit being mostly to those non-infected people nearby to an infected mask-wearer - most definitely agree. The biggest benefit is not to the wearer but to those around them. Since none of us actually knows, at any given point in time, whether we may be an asymptomatic carrier, this is where universal mask wearing is the only logical approach. At the moment, in Australia, I can understand why that is not being done, since a 'balance of probabilities' right now says that 'most likely' the people around me are not carriers.

    As to someone's comment above to the effect that, if you are in a risk category, you should just stay home - well, of course. But the thing is with this virus, as we are increasingly learning, even people not in high risk categories are suffering severe adverse effects and even death. The most recent death in Singapore was that of a 41 year old man who had apparently fully recovered from the virus but then suffered a fatal embolism. The cardiovascular impacts of this virus are becoming increasingly notable, as in this article from over a month ago now, and this seems to affect especially younger victims - perhaps because severely affected older patients die sooner from other effects.
    https://academic.oup.com/cardiovascres/advance-article/doi/10.1093/cvr/cvaa106/5826160
    Farside
    8th Jun 2020
    1:09pm
    Hirajima, for the moment I don't think there is a great need to wear mask now with community spread so low except in the circumstances I mentioned. I think hygiene and social distancing is fine for the level of risk. Obviously those at significant risk of complications should avoid risky situations or use respirators or N95 (as the old stick at the farm store did yesterday) but onus is upon them rather than the other 98%.

    I accept the risks of some community transference so long as within levels that are socially acceptable and not overwhelming the health services. The virus is in the wild and I suspect will be circulating for a long time yet. If it starts to spread aggressively again then it will be masks all round but until then I think the CHO advice is sound. We will do more to manage this by changing habits so sick people stay home (no more soldiering on) and practising good hygiene when out and about.

    Fwiw, to date there have been only four positive tests in my area, each during the peak back in March in a returning traveller from the USA; two were residents and now recovered with self-isolation. I see no point in wearing a mask just for the sake of it or virtue signalling, and certainly not because a 41 year old in Singapore died because of it. We accept risks all the time and for now Covid19 is a low risk compared to flu (3000), falls (3000), roads (1200) and so on.
    Hirajima
    8th Jun 2020
    1:18pm
    Pretty much in agreement, Farside, hehe. Virtue signaling certainly is pointless, on this or any other current issues. Thanks for an interesting conversation, and all the best with those studies! Thankfully my formal study days are behind me, which means I can study what I like as I like... when I discipline myself :)
    Incognito
    8th Jun 2020
    1:21pm
    So Hirajima pushes wearing masks but does not wear one? I live in a rural area so am not worried,no one has been diagnosed here.
    Hirajima
    8th Jun 2020
    1:44pm
    *smiles* Incognito, I wore one for several weeks before it became evident that there was zero detected community transmission in Perth. The moment there is just one community case here, which will definitely happen once the border is opened at the very latest, the mask will return. Lucky you, living in a rural area, though there have been some alarming cases in rural USA, so that is not a guarantee... but hopefully none of that happens here.
    As for 'pushing', hehe... umm, nope, I just provide information, it's up to individuals what they do... at this stage, anyway. Each person has to assess what is happening in their community.
    Nice to chat, enjoy your lovely clean rural air :)
    gnome
    7th Jun 2020
    3:39pm
    Lookfar Borax is not safe to ingest. According to the NLM's Toxicology Data Network, borax is easy for the body to break down when either inhaled or swallowed. However, if inhalation or ingestion occurs, both serious poisoning and organ damage can result.
    https://www.healthline.com/health/is-borax-safe
    simo60
    8th Jun 2020
    9:55am
    Best idea, WASH your hands
    Hirajima
    8th Jun 2020
    10:40am
    Washing your hands is very important. It stops you transferring virus from handled objects to your mouth or nose. But it won't do any good if someone has just coughed into the air you then breathe in. Masks are intended for a different purpose than hand washing :)
    BillW41
    8th Jun 2020
    6:47pm
    I don't claim to be an expert in anything, just the last bastion of commonsense.
    DzW
    10th Jun 2020
    11:48am
    Just google dr. Buttar, Mikovits, prof.Wittkowski and prof. Dolores Cahill ...
    Farside
    10th Jun 2020
    1:28pm
    don't forget to grab your tinfoil hat, anti-vaxxer club card, astrological weather guide, box of homeopathic remedies and a cup of Jim Jones red cordial before sitting down to enjoy the journey down the rabbit hole
    Hirajima
    10th Jun 2020
    1:32pm
    @Farside... hehe :P
    Incognito
    10th Jun 2020
    1:45pm
    Farside and Hirajima at it again, just because someone has a different opinion there is no need for you to be nasty and suggest that they are into other things as well, you only have to look at the conspiracies of the past that came true to realize we do need to be skeptic.
    By the way homeopathics have been used for hundreds of years and even The Queen uses them, it is also has main stream use in India and doctors and even their PM recommends there use. I have seen a dog recover from tick paralysis overnight from using homeopathics when the vet said there was nothing they could do.
    Hirajima
    10th Jun 2020
    5:35pm
    @Incognito: "at it again..." ... " there is no need for you to be nasty..."
    Do you actually read what people say to you here. A more friendly, conciliatory tone than mine towards you, you would be hard pressed to find here.
    I'd love to know an example of a conspiracy of the past which came true which might be taken as a parallel to some of the loopy conspiracies surrounding SARS-CoV-2... please do provide an example or two :)
    Homeopathy I have no opinion on myself, it's not something I have ever or, probably, will ever investigate.
    Lucca
    11th Jun 2020
    10:13pm
    Wearing of masks should be made COMPULSORY.
    BillW41
    16th Jun 2020
    7:27pm
    How do you eat and drink while wearing the damn things?!
    Incognito
    16th Jun 2020
    8:00pm
    You just have to be far enough away from people I guess before lifting your mask. People are already eating out but keeping the social distancing going, that is why masks are of no use really. Stay home if you are sick or vulnerable.
    Farside
    16th Jun 2020
    10:10pm
    if you are hungry or thirsty you will think of a way, if nothing comes to mind then look around and see how others manage the task.
    Hirajima
    16th Jun 2020
    10:22pm
    I think this question is overthinking the limitations of wearing a face mask. Of course you can't eat and drink while wearing one - end of story. You're not going to be going out fine dining or even grabbing a coffee and cake if the situation is such that you are 'advisable' to wear a face mask. You will be scurrying down to your supermarket at the least busy time possible, grabbing your essentials, and hightailing it back to your cosy bolt-hole as fast as your little scooter will carry you. Other than that, you will be staying home. And between shopping trips you will be thoroughly washing your mask in soap and hot water, if it's a re-usable fabric one which, of course, you will use so that the N95s are left for the HCWs. :)


    Join YOURLifeChoices, it’s free

    • Receive our daily enewsletter
    • Enter competitions
    • Comment on articles

    You May Like