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How epidemiologists think Victoria’s mask rules should change

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Article image for How epidemiologists think Victoria’s mask rules should change

Two leading epidemiologists say they believe Victoria’s mask rules could have been safely eased with today’s restriction relaxation.

Professorial Fellow in Epidemiology at the University of Melbourne, Tony Blakely, says masks are effective, and “may well be part of the reason” Victoria has had nine consecutive days without a COVID-19 case, but the need for them now is questionable.

“Whether we still need them on now is another matter,” he told Ross and Russel.

“We could have actually moved to what I call smart-masking, which is just requiring them in public transport, busy internal environments and, say, when you’re jostling on Lygon Street.”

Professor Blakely says he’s “not too fussed” that mask rules haven’t yet been relaxed, but by Victoria’s next phase of rule easing, on November 22, he expects the rules will change.

He says, if there are no new cases, Victoria will have eradicated COVID-19 on November 26th, removing the need for masks altogether.

“If we’ve had zero cases that will be 28 days after we’ve had our last case, in which case we would have eliminated and at that point you wouldn’t really need masks at all,” he said.

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Chair of epidemiology at Deakin University, Professor Catherine Bennett, agrees it’s now safe to ease mask rules.

“I think we’re at the point where, if you’re out, you can keep your distance, you’re away from other people, that masks don’t add a lot,” she told Neil Mitchell.

Professor Bennett said she’s concerned the strict rules are leading to non-compliance in situations where masks should be worn.

“They’re pulling them down, they’re not wearing them properly,” she said.

“Perhaps if we don’t mandate them in the outdoors, we’ll keep them worn properly indoors for longer.”

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Professor Michael Toole, Epidemiologist from the Burnet Institute, told Tom Elliott he’d be holding tight for now.

He said we should wait at least 28 days after the latest active case resolves before lifting the rules.

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