Premier slams Aussie anti-mask crazies
Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews has attacked Australians who say they will refuse to follow his state's mandatory new mask rules.
Revealing the state recorded 275 new cases overnight, he said he didn't think it was "too much to ask" for Victorians to wear masks when they are out and about.
However, there is a growing backlash against the rules, which come into effect on Thursday.
"There has been a lot of commentary and a lot of people who don't necessarily think that the virus is real or think it is somehow a fundamental attack on peoples' human rights," Mr Andrews told reporters this morning.
"I just remind every Victorian that nurses and doctors wear masks when they are treating you and I don't think it is too much to ask Victorians to wear a mask so they don't finish up in hospital or contribute to somebody else finishing up in hospital.
"Victorians will embrace this and I am grateful to them for doing it.
He said wearing a mask is "unusual" for many Victorians, but said it will make a difference.
"That is the medical advice to me for the sake of avoiding some criticism, from a small group of people, I think, I was hardly going to ignore the advice given," he said.
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"The advice is, at this point in the pandemic, the circumstances we face, the reality we confront, masks across the board will make a difference and, therefore, if you're told something will make a difference, then you're obliged to do it."
Five million Victorians in the state's locked-down zones will be made to wear a mask when they head outside from Thursday. Anybody caught outside without a mask would face a $200 fine.
Residents in NSW are also being asked to wear masks if they are out in public and cannot socially distance as the number of coronavirus cases in the state increases.
However, just 24 hours after the rules were announced, it already appears masks and face coverings have struck a nerve with some.
One Melburnian told the Today show he wouldn't be wearing a mask and would refuse to pay the fine if he got one.
"Absolutely not. They would have to take me to court and I still wouldn't pay it," he added.
He is not alone in his sentiment. Social media has been bombarded with angry messages from Aussies who say they will defy the rule and some who even say they believe it is part of a global conspiracy.
"Where is our civil liberties? I guess they don't exist no more," wrote one Victorian on Twitter.
"This is one of those times that civil disobedience becomes mandatory," wrote another.
Aside from a political stance against a perceived loss of freedom, it's clear some Victorians think wearing masks won't stop the spread of COVID-19.
"Like a good citizen, I've stayed home. I'm more than willing to wear a mask publicly indoors but I take my kids for a walk/bike to the park once a day for "FRESH AIR" to relieve some anxiety and stress at government shambles, now he takes the air we breathe?" wrote one Victorian on Twitter.
"Mandatory masks is ridiculous! If they don't specify a standard of mask (a type that might actually work) & say any face covering (most of which even the scientists say are useless) then how is this anything other than political to create fear inspired compliance of other rules," wrote another.
So we’ve heard a bit this morning from the ‘you can’t make me’ brigade when it comes to wearing masks. If you’re in a Melbourne and refuse to wear a mask, you’re no better than an anti-vaxxer. Just do it. Please. 🙏 pic.twitter.com/zLqqUtE4b4— Michael Rowland (@mjrowland68) July 19, 2020
It has also not taken long for conspiracy theorists to attack the move as an alleged money-making scheme for Chinese mask manufacturers. Some even made a wild and unsubstantiated claim that Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews is somehow making money from the rules.
"Most masks are from China = Dan Andrews enforces masks = Keeps his Chinese paymasters happy. Join the dots," one conspiracy theorist wrote on Twitter.
Despite the resistance by some, the new Victorian rules have also found widespread support.
Australian Infectious Disease physician and researcher, Professor Sharon Lewin said the latest evidence on the spread of COVID-19 shows that masks do work.
"Masks play two roles. First of all, they play a role in protecting someone from becoming infected," she told Nine this morning.
"We've known for a long time that if you wear a mask for a prolonged period they don't work as well but they also play an important role in stopping someone who is infectious from spreading to other people.
"We've known that for long time so we have told people if they're symptomatic don't go to your doctor without a mask, put on a mask and go to see your doctor.
"What we hadn't appreciated is how common people are infectious when they have absolutely no symptoms, you don't know that you're infected when you go to work."
She said that the only way to deal with this problem is universal mask-wearing.
"All of us should wear a mask because we don't know when we're infectious and that has changed dramatically," she said. "We have much better evidence just over the last two to three months that this does work."
Epidemiology professor Tony Blakely from University of Melbourne told the Today show it was clear that some Australians had an "issue" with being told to wear masks, but that won't be the case for long.
"By Wednesday next week - people will be looking sideways at the person in the supermarket not wearing it and they will be considered rude, impolite or not socially appropriate," he said. "Back up, think about it. When we made pubs smoke-free, it was a bit controversial initially and then considered the best thing to do and I'm pretty sure that will happen here. We have to go for a culture change here. It is going to happen quickly."
Victoria's laws have also been supported by several high-ranking Federal politicians, such as Josh Frydenberg and Health Minister Greg Hunt.
Mr Hunt said Victoria is at the point where masks are now "necessary" in the state and says federal officials "fully and completely support".
"It is necessary, and we are sorry that it has reached this point for all those who were affected. But this is about saving lives and protecting lives."
In making the announcement on Sunday morning, Mr Andrews said anybody caught outside the home without a mask would face a $200 fine.
"It's a relatively simple thing but it's also about embedding behaviour, which I think is just as important on the other side of this second wave as it is in bringing these case numbers down," he said.
"We're going to be wearing masks in Victoria and potentially in other parts of the country for a very long time. There's no vaccine to this wildly infectious virus and it's a simple thing, but it's about changing habits, it's about becoming a simple part of your routine.
Victoria's Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton said children under 12 are exempt.
"That is in recognition that it's likely to work for all of those age groups. Below the age of 12, it's a consideration. We say not for toddlers. So not for two years and below," he said.
"It's a consideration for all other children. But it is mandatory, really, from that high school age onwards."
Exemptions will be given to people who cannot wear a mask due to a medical condition, and when engaged in an activity where it is "entirely impractical" to wear a mask, it's also not a requirement, Prof Sutton said.
Originally published as Premier slams Aussie anti-mask crazies