One of Australia’s leading doctors has doubled down on rejecting renewed calls to reintroduce Covid masks, labeling the advice “extreme” and believing it would make no difference.
Australia is in the middle of an eighth wave of Covid-19, with 6,550 cases reported across the country in the last week.
The surge has prompted some health officials, including Australian Medical Association Queensland president Maria Boulton, to call for the reintroduction of mandatory mask-wearing in high-risk places such as planes, large crowds and medical facilities.
Australia’s former deputy chief health officer, Dr Nick Coatsworth, doesn’t think we should be unduly concerned about the recent surge.
“The Australian Medical Association has reported that there have been 245 hospital admissions in Queensland due to this (current) wave of Covid-19 cases, but there are over a million admissions to Queensland hospitals each year,” he said.
“The suggestion that it is a wave is probably wrong.
He also believes that restoring the obligation to wear masks would have little impact.
Some medical experts have renewed calls to reinstate mask mandates in high-risk settings as Covid-19 cases surge again
“It’s not going to make any difference at this point,” Dr Coatsworth told 2GB’s Ben Fordham on Friday morning.
“If you say, ‘Look, wear masks in some situations but not others, don’t distance yourself from others and go about your business,’ then all masks do is pollute the environment.”
We need to be smarter about how we deal with this.
He also went against the advice of scientists recommending 100,000 audience members cover themselves with masks at Coldplay’s performance in Perth this weekend.
“It’s just crazy,” he said.
“Just wearing a mask at a Coldplay concert is unlikely to provide protection.
“And secondly, the vast majority of people have had Covid, even those who say they have never had it. The vast majority of people are also vaccinated.
“COVID-19 is currently a milder disease due to the so-called herd immunity that we have all been exposed to.
“You won’t see many people in Coldplay wearing masks.
According to Dr Nick Coatsworth, the best way to reduce the risk of catching Covid is to meet friends outdoors
Former Australian deputy chief health officer Nick Coatsworth (pictured) has described calls to reinstate the mask mandate as crazy
Dr Coastworth is not overly concerned about the latest surge in cases, but admitted it is putting a strain on hospitals.
“The reason health departments have communicated this is because the increase in cases of Covid or any respiratory virus is putting a strain on hospitals,” he said.
“I work in a hospital and you can see the tension, but not because people are sick with Covid.
“Very few people actually get Covid, but it creates an infection control problem, requiring patients to be isolated and causes pressure in bed.
“But this will happen over the next 5 to 10 years with Covid-19 and respiratory viruses, and we need to find ways to deal with it.”
“Honestly, I was on shift yesterday and we didn’t have a single Covid-19 patient in our emergency department.
Dr Coatsworth stressed that despite a slight increase in hospital admissions, admissions to intensive care had fallen.
“It is important to reassure everyone that vaccinations are effective.”
According to Dr Nick Coastworth, the chance of taking Covid outside is “extremely difficult, if not impossible”. The photo shows beachgoers in Bondi
“There are creative, innovative ways that will allow the community to continue its activities without constant conversations about bringing back things that, realistically, public health officials will not bring back.”
Dr Coatsworth repeated health advice to catch up outdoors, where the risk of contracting Covid is “extremely difficult, if not impossible”.
“It was always the right advice, I’m not sure why we didn’t give it at the beginning of the pandemic,” he said.
“You’d really have to be on top of someone to catch Covid outdoors.”
Meanwhile, infectious disease specialist Professor Peter Collignon has made it clear that he opposes people being forced to wear masks by law.
“If you are at increased risk or concerned, yes, wear a mask. But no fines.
Professor Collignon, a microbiologist at Canberra Hospital, said wearing a mask outdoors “makes little or probably no sense at all”.
He added that masks will provide “some short-term protection” for people concerned about short-term exposure indoors, but eye protection is also necessary.
“What lands in the eyes ends up in the nose,” the professor said.