Aussie state brings back Covid mask mandate as tensions flare between experts

Western Australia is the first state to bring back rules surrounding face masks.

Mask mandates are back on the table as Australia continues to mull over how necessary face coverings are during a spike in hospitalisations from Covid-19.

Western Australia has announced it will mandate face masks in hospitals from Monday in a bid to protect vulnerable citizens as cases continue to rise. Premier Roger Cook described it as a "simple measure" that will protect the state's most vulnerable.

It comes after the Queensland government granted hospitals the ability to enforce the same rule if desired.

The mandate is a daunting development for many Australians who believed Covid restrictions were a thing of the past, with many now waiting to see if other states will follow WA's lead.

WA hospitals will see a return to mask mandates from Monday. Source: Getty
WA hospitals will see a return to mask mandates from Monday. Source: Getty

Debate rages over need for masks

The debate over whether mask mandates are necessary has been heating up in recent days, with the Australian Medical Association in Queensland saying masks in certain public settings would help the country avoid a "disastrous" Christmas period.

However Dr Nick Coatsworth, the nation's former deputy chief medical officer, has slammed calls for greater mask usage, saying Australia needs to take a "chill pill".

"Covid-19 is now a milder disease because of what we call herd immunity, we have all been exposed to it," he told 2GB.

He argued wearing masks in some situations was going to make little difference and urged the country to be "smarter" in its Covid management.

Peter Collignon, an infectious diseases professor at ANU and prominent voice during the pandemic, agreed masks would have little impact on the spread of the virus, and doesn't expect Christmas to be a particularly bad period for Covid.

It comes as more than 100,000 revellers heading to Coldplay's Perth gigs have been advised by health experts to wear face masks. Deakin University chair of epidemiology Catherine Bennett told WA Today such a move "made sense" for people in crowds.

Queensland's chief health officer John Gerrard hit out at commentary suggesting masks were not needed, saying people "should not feel pressured or in any way intimidated because they choose to wear a mask". However he stressed a widespread mandate would only occur in "exceptional" circumstances.

There were 201 patients admitted to hospital with Covid-19 this week for WA, a sizeable increase from the 134 at the start of the month.

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