Australia

'Simple message': Gladys Berejiklian under pressure to impose mandatory masks in NSW

Premier Gladys Berejiklian provides a COVID-19 update in Sydney, Thursday, December 31, 2020. Source: AAP

The NSW Premier is being urged to mandate mask wearing across the state, but Gladys Berejiklian says her state's restrictions are proportionate to the current risk.

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian is under increasing pressure to make mask-wearing mandatory with doctors groups and the opposition calling for new rules to be imposed on residents.

Victoria has reimposed a requirement making masks mandatory indoors for all residents across the state from Thursday evening, as the state recorded five new coronavirus cases overnight.

NSW recorded 17 new cases, with seven of those in hotel quarantine. The state’s total stands at 4,734.

When asked about Victoria’s stricter measures and lower daily case numbers, Ms Berejiklian said every state leader had a different approach.

"Our approach in New South Wales is cautious and we believe proportionate to the risk that's there," she said.

While Ms Berejiklian has faced criticism in some circles for not making masks mandatory, she again reiterated that residents should wear masks.

"If you're in an indoor place, if you're going grocery shopping, if you're in a place of worship, you have to wear a mask, you should be wearing a mask," she said, correcting herself.

"But obviously in outdoor settings, if you can’t guarantee social distancing, if you can't guarantee all the other factors which make it COVID-safe, you should also make sure you're wearing a mask.

0:00

"You shouldn't be catching public transport really at this stage if you're not wearing a mask, and we want to strongly continue to encourage that.

"The last thing we want is to welcome in 2021 with a super spreading event."

NSW Opposition Leader Jodi McKay said masks should be made mandatory for those in large venues where people were not social distancing.

"It just makes sense and I don’t understand why the premier is not moving down this path," she said.

"It is about reducing the risk, and people will accept it. I think people want it."

The Australian Medical Association NSW also said masks should be made mandatory.

"It's encouraging to see so many NSW residents already wearing masks when they are shopping or at indoor venues," AMA NSW president Danielle McMullen said in a statement, according to The Guardian.

"However, the best way to encourage compliance is to make masks mandatory.

"Making masks mandatory sends a strong signal to the community about the importance of wearing masks to reduce the spread of the virus – particularly indoors where ventilation may be poor and respiratory aerosols, which carry the virus, are greater."

0:00
28 December: NSW Premier hits out at partygoers flouting rules
28 December: NSW Premier hits out at partygoers flouting rules

UNSW Professor of epidemiology Mary-Louise McLaws said Victoria’s example through its winter lockdown showed people will comply with such rules.

"Australians like a simple message that is not difficult to interpret, not too many exceptions to the rule," she told SBS News.

"Making mandatory mask use in public sends a very simple message that … we’re at a knife’s edge and the numbers can get worse.

She said evidence showed it was much more cost-effective than contact tracing.

"The best contact tracers are those who we never have to use because we prevented infection."

People in Australia must stay at least 1.5 metres away from others.

Please check the relevant guidelines for your state or territory: NSWVictoriaQueenslandWestern AustraliaSouth AustraliaNorthern TerritoryACTTasmania.

If you are experiencing cold or flu symptoms, stay home and arrange a test by calling your doctor or contact the Coronavirus Health Information Hotline on 1800 020 080. News and information is available in 63 languages at sbs.com.au/coronavirus.

Stay up to date with SBS NEWS

  • App
  • Subscribe
  • Follow
  • Listen
  • Watch