Victorians are more likely to abandon face masks when repeatedly hit with “changing rules” about where to wear them and which ones to use, a leading epidemiologist says.
Deakin University chair of epidemiology Professor Catherine Bennett said the messaging around face masks needed to focus on areas where there was higher risk of coronavirus transmission.
She said masks would be “harder” to wear in the upcoming summer months.
“It will be warmer, people will be out swimming, so it will be harder to keep them dry. People will be out eating, so there will be more occasions where people aren’t wearing them and there needs to be a happy compromise,” she said.
“It may be a situation where risk areas like supermarkets and public transport won’t let you in unless you have a mask, but the focus needs to be on areas where it is important for prevention and people will understand and more likely be engaged in face mask wearing rather than just being told repeatedly to keep wearing them or changing rules on which ones to use.”
It comes after Premier Daniel Andrews announced new requirements for face masks, with coverings such as the popular plastic face shields no longer permitted.
“Some of the concessions we made as we adjusted to this new normal – things like wearing a scarf or a bandana or a face shield – will no longer apply,” Mr Andrews said.
“You can wear one (a shield) if you want, in terms of your eyes, but it would need to be accompanied by a mask.
“We would recommend a two-ply mask, but anything is better than nothing – but a shield (alone) is akin to not wearing a face covering.”
Prof Bennett said the community deserved more information about where cases of COVID-19 were coming from if they were going to commit to a future of wearing face masks.
“These are general rules and a lot of people don’t understand the reasoning behind it,” she said.
“Things like the 5km radius, for example, perhaps it might be easier to understand a rule like this if it was explained. The Government knows, they absolutely know precisely where cases are coming from.
“But it would be so helpful if they explained it in a way where people can see, ‘Oh we had a case where someone travelled 15km and that caused a problem’.”