Kerry Chant urges people to keep masks in NSW as warrant removed and COVID-19 infections rise
Publicly, it has been a united front for almost two years: NSW’s top doctor, Kerry Chant, stands alongside a prime minister, who proclaimed that any COVID-19 decision they made was “based on health advice “.
Now there has been a deviation from this script.
On the same day, NSW removed face mask warrants in most settings, Dr Chant – the state’s chief medical officer of health – admitted she wanted people to keep them.
Pressed on the issue, Prime Minister Dominic Perrottet said his team had taken Dr Chant’s advice into account, but that managing the pandemic was “a balance”.
A slew of social distancing restrictions were lifted in New South Wales today despite COVID-19 cases peaking in three months.
During the last reporting period, there were 1,360 new locally acquired cases and one death.
There are currently 166 people hospitalized including 24 in intensive care.
Wearing a mask is now mandatory only in high-risk environments such as on public transport or in hospitals.
“It’s a matter for the government to define these mandates and all I’m saying is from a public health post, I strongly recommend that we keep the masks on and I ask the community to do that,” said the Dr Chant.
“It’s a very small act and you are actually protecting yourself, but more importantly, you are protecting others.”
Rather, the state government has left it up to the public to choose when to dress up.
“As we head into this Christmas season (…) there is no doubt that the malls will be busier, we are just saying please take your personal responsibility,” the prime minister said.
“We recommend the masks, we took the advice into account, it’s always a balance in terms of the government’s approach and that’s the decision we made.”
University of NSW epidemiologist Mary-Louise McLaws believes the mask’s mandate should have stayed because “a third wave is coming.”
âFrom a public health perspective, this is not the right precautionary call until we know much more about Omicron,â she said.
“It might not be the safest decision because no one knows when they are infectious until they start to experience symptoms.”
But the Prime Minister wants public attention to move away from case numbers and instead focus on hospitalization rates and intensive care referrals – which are currently relatively low.
âWe have always said from time to time, if we think that as a government there will be substantial pressure on our health system, we will adapt our parameters accordingly,â he said.
“We are learning to live alongside the virus, vaccination has been the key to that.”
“As we open, we open securely.”
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