Free masks for SA public transport

·2-min read

Free face masks will be provided on Adelaide public transport to promote better compliance with COVID-19 rules and reduce community infection rates.

A meeting of South Australia's Emergency Management Council considered the move on Tuesday with Police Commissioner Grant Stevens confirming steps were being taken to determine how that can occur.

Mr Stevens said SA Health compliance staff would also head to public transport interchange venues to remind people of their obligations.

Premier Peter Malinauskas said those compliance teams would have the ability to provide free masks to people without them where they considered it appropriate.

But the premier remained firm that there would be no widespread mask mandates despite face coverings being strongly encouraged inside public venues, such as shopping centres, supermarkets and even at outdoor events.

"We place a high value on national consistency. There's no jurisdiction in the country at the moment that has mask mandates and we are no exception," he said.

The SA opposition had earlier called for free masks amid growing evidence that many people were flouting the rules.

While masks remain mandatory on public buses, trains and trams, as well as in taxis and ride-share transport, the level of use had dropped in recent months.

Opposition health spokeswoman Ashton Hurn said the proposal for free masks had the support of health officials and should be adopted as a commonsense move.

"As our hospitals endure extreme pressure during this third wave, providing free masks to support compliance on public transport is one action which could help ease the pressure on our health system," she said.

"This initiative aims to keep passengers protected on our trains, trams and buses and would mean South Australians are more likely to get on board with wearing masks and are more likely to continue patronising public transport."

SA Health reported another 2848 COVID-19 cases and three deaths on Tuesday.

There are 352 people in hospital with COVID-19 including nine in intensive care

Mr Stevens said the most recent modelling on case numbers indicated SA had passed the peak in the current wave of infections, which had been driven by the arrival of the BA.4 and BA.5 Omicron variants.

"We hope that transitions to a reduction in hospital numbers as well," he said.

"But all the signs are positive at this point in time."

Mr Malinauskas agreed that numbers appeared to be on the way down but said SA needed to remain vigilant because there would likely be further peaks in the future.

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