December 5, 2022

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Top doctors plead with Australians to wear face coverings anywhere ‘winter viruses’ can spread

Top doctors are pleading with Australians to wear masks anywhere ‘winter viruses’ like the flu can spread – not just Covid.

The Australian Medical Association advised Victorians mask up indoors and avoid sports stadiums as the country braces for cooler weather.

Epidemiologists warned the state’s ambulances and hospital system would be put under pressure from a surge in Covid cases and a worsening flu season. 

Dr Roderick McRae, the president of the Victorian branch of the Australian Medical Association, will spearhead a move to reinstate masks indoors. 

The country’s top doctors have pleaded with Australians to wear face coverings anywhere ‘winter viruses’ can spread as temperatures drop (pictured, masked shoppers in Sydney)

Dr Roderick McRae, the President of the Victorian branch of the Australian Medical Association, (pictured) will spearhead a move to reinstate masks in several settings

Dr Roderick McRae, the President of the Victorian branch of the Australian Medical Association, (pictured) will spearhead a move to reinstate masks in several settings

He said the group would support ‘moderate, but sensible’ mandates like masks in supermarkets, theatres, concert halls, and sport stadiums.

Dr McRae called on Victorians to voluntarily wear masks and avoid large gatherings as the state’s hospital crisis worsens. 

He said while he understood the community wanted a return to pre-Covid normalcy, a relaxing of mask rules could see the health system suffer. 

‘Today the public hospital system is in crisis. We’ve heard of nothing but ambulance ramping from summer. It’s only set to get worse,’ Dr McRae said.

‘The community needs to decide what’s most important – not prejudicing the public hospital system or going to five football matches over five days a week.’

AMA national president Dr Omar Khorshid added: ‘There’s definitely an argument that masks would assist in protecting hospitals, and is something that should certainly be on the table.’ 

Mask mandates for hospitality and retail workers were scrapped last month with face coverings no longer required in most indoor settings. 

The Australian Medical Association advised Victorians mask up indoors and avoid sports stadiums as the country braces for cooler weather (pictured, masked shoppers in Sydney)

The Australian Medical Association advised Victorians mask up indoors and avoid sports stadiums as the country braces for cooler weather (pictured, masked shoppers in Sydney)

Mask mandates for hospitality and retail workers were scrapped last month with face coverings no longer required in most indoor settings (pictured, fans in Melbourne)

Mask mandates for hospitality and retail workers were scrapped last month with face coverings no longer required in most indoor settings (pictured, fans in Melbourne)

Face coverings still need to be worn on public transport and those visiting hospitals, aged care facilities, airports, and other settings deemed high-risk.

In NSW, mask rules in most indoor settings were scrapped on February 25 – with face coverings still mandatory on public transport, airports and other high-risk settings. 

The Victorian government still advises residents to mask up in places they can’t physically distance as well as those vulnerable to Covid-19 or with symptoms. 

A recent mass flu outbreak that saw over 50 attendees at a children’s party in Melbourne infected has been recorded as the largest pre-pandemic outbreak. 

The majority of residents have stopped wearing masks, social distancing and regularly testing for Covid-19 as rules are scrapped and case numbers wane. 

However, top doctors warn Australia could be heading into a horror flu season as temperatures drop and ‘winter viruses’ rip through communities. 

Pandemic adviser Professor James McCaw said the combination of new sub-variants and a ‘difficult’ flu season meant people needed to make smart choices. 

‘The pandemic is still here. It hasn’t gone anywhere,’ the epidemiologist with the University of Melbourne told The Age.

The majority of residents have stopped wearing masks, social distancing and regularly testing for Covid-19 as case numbers wane and life returns to normal (pictured, shoppers in Sydney)

The majority of residents have stopped wearing masks, social distancing and regularly testing for Covid-19 as case numbers wane and life returns to normal (pictured, shoppers in Sydney)

Prof McCaw said while rules requiring household contacts to isolate had been scrapped in Victoria, people should still choose to stay home to protect others. 

He added that while people should be wearing masks in supermarkets, a third vaccination dose should be a priority, and a fourth for those who were eligible. 

‘People seem to read it as “you don’t need to do it, so don’t do it”. That’s not what was said,’ he said.

However, he said mandates would be a distraction from the most important Covid measure – getting Australians to have their booster shots.

The Victorian Government said Covid rules were always under review based on the situation.

As part of any consideration of changes to settings, the minister must consider the advice of the chief health officer and may consider other stakeholders,’ it said.

More than 33 per cent of Victorians aged 16 and over are yet to get their third dose.