As community transmission across NSW grows, the Australian Medical Association (AMA) is calling for increased restrictions on indoor gatherings in the state and the wearing of masks.
NSW has recommended residents wear masks on public transport or when they are in a situation where they can’t socially distance, but it is not mandatory.
AMA president Dr Omar Khorshid and NSW AMA president Dr Danielle McMullen said it was time for all people to start wearing masks, particularly indoors.
“The AMA – federally and in NSW – has been broadly supportive of the NSW government’s approach to preventing the spread of COVID-19, but current indications are that it now needs to go further,” Dr Khorshid said.
“We’re at a time when NSW could go either way in terms of ending up like Victoria or moving back to a situation closer to where we were before this outbreak.”
Calls for masks to be made mandatory in NSW have been supported by Melbourne University epidemiologist Professor Tony Blakely who told news.com.au NSW, and Sydney in particular, should have mandatory mask wearing.
As well as calling for the mandatory of face masks, he suggested further restriction as well.
“There is also a strong case for a stage three lockdown for a few weeks to get ahead of the virus, and stamp it out,” Prof. Blakely said.
“Otherwise, NSW could look like Victoria in four weeks.”
NSW Labor is calling for masks to be compulsory on public transport, retail spaces and places of worship.
Dr McMullen said that the NSW government had been saying for some time that it strongly recommended people wear masks indoors, and when physical distancing is not possible.
“Their language on indoor gatherings – including restaurants, pubs, clubs, gyms, religious gatherings, and event visitors in people’s households – has also been becoming stronger,” Dr McMullen said.
“People shouldn’t need to be threatened with punishment to comply with sensible recommendations to prevent this very contagious and dangerous virus from spreading.
“All of this said, we would need both the NSW and federal governments to help people in the community and businesses, particularly for obtaining masks that provide adequate protection.
“Even surgical and reusable masks that people in the community will need to comply with government advice can be very expensive and hard to obtain,” Dr McMullen said.
“If the government does mandate the usage of masks, it has a responsibility to ensure that everyone who needs one can source one that is adequate to their needs.
“The government has been asking the community to do the right thing and while many people have responded, infections persist, and NSW is struggling to return to the previous environment where it had no community transmission.”
While stopping short of calling for stage three restrictions to be introduced, the AMA is calling for tighter control on indoor gatherings in NSW.
Last month NSW limited the size of group bookings allowed in hospitality venues to 10 people, which is lower than the 20 allowed previously, and also limited the number of people allowed to attend weddings, funerals and religious gatherings.
In NSW up to 20 people are still allowed to gather in homes.
The AMA said it was time to tighten these restrictions further as community transmission grows.
“We know this sounds like a lot to ask of the community, but the alternative to this is could very well be Victorian-style stage four lockdowns, and we do not want to see those kinds of conditions imposed in NSW,” Dr Khorshid said.
Do you live in NSW? Have you started wearing a mask whenever you leave the house? Do you think it is time to make the wearing of masks mandatory in NSW?
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