Canberrans face up to wearing masks in public

Michael Weaver 3 August 2020 17
Coles supermarket employee with mask and gloves

An employee at Coles in Manuka taking precautions during a transaction. Photo: Michelle Kroll.

Canberrans are being prepared for the prospect of wearing a face mask out in public after ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr and Health Minister Rachel Stephen-Smith issued a joint statement saying that while wearing masks was not currently mandatory, a situation may arise where that changes.

“ACT residents, particularly those unable to physically distance in their daily work or daily activities, are now encouraged to prepare for a time where wearing a face mask becomes another part of how we respond to the threat of COVID-19,” Mr Barr said.

“If we start to see cases in areas immediately surrounding the ACT, or we start to get new cases in Canberra, then wearing a face mask in public will feature as part of our response.

“Just like NSW, mask-wearing would be the fourth line of defence in Canberra. It would be in addition to physical distancing, hand hygiene and staying home if you are unwell.”


READ MORE: Woolworths urges face masks for staff and customers at ACT stores


The ACT’s one remaining case of COVID-19 was declared free of the virus on Saturday (1 August); however, ACT residents are being put on notice that the risk of the virus returning is edging higher with daily increases in the number of active cases across NSW.

The NSW Premier and NSW Chief Health Officer have reiterated that NSW is now in a critical stage of its COVID-19 response.

The advice comes as Woolworths supermarket urged its customers to wear face masks in all its ACT stores from today (3 August) as part of a new response to combat the spread of COVID-19.

Sign at Liquorland Wanniassa

A sign of the times at Coles Wanniassa. Photo: Region Media.

A spokesperson for Canberra Health Services last week said the ACT has more than 18 months’ supply of surgical masks and there was no supply issue for face masks in Canberra.

“There is no current advice from the ACT Government to wear masks in Canberra as protection against COVID-19. However, should any Canberran wish to wear a mask, people can access them through retailers across the ACT,” CHS said.

“The ACT currently has enough N95 masks for hospital and health care workers to protect the workforce for up to six months at current utilisation rates (which are significant given current rates of testing across the Territory),” the spokesperson said.

A spokesperson for The Pharmacy Network in Canberra also said that while demand for face masks at their pharmacies was strong, they also had an adequate supply.

ACT Health said it is also taking steps to ensure that people with a health condition that makes them more vulnerable to getting sick and members of the public general public would have access to masks if the situation in the ACT worsened.


READ MORE: Face mask demand surges but supply is plentiful in the ACT


As of today (3 August), Canberra remains COVID-free and there is no evidence of community transmission of the virus.

“There is no current recommendation to wear face masks in the ACT,” an ACT Health spokesperson said today.

“Physical distancing, hand and respiratory hygiene, and staying at home if you are unwell continue to be our best defences against the spread of this virus.

“However, a situation may arise in the future where the wearing of face masks may provide an added benefit in reducing the risk of transmission in the community.

“Should we start to see a rapid growth in case numbers or outbreaks in the ACT or surrounding regions – particularly if those cases appear to be evidence of community transmission – then wearing face masks in enclosed public spaces where it is not possible to social distance will feature as a part of our public health response.”

Canberrans are also reminded that any travel to greater Sydney should be avoided unless it is absolutely essential, and any travel outside of the ACT should be carefully considered.


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17 Responses to Canberrans face up to wearing masks in public
Vicky Diamond Vicky Diamond 3:47 am 05 Aug 20

Is anyone having trouble breathing enough air while wearing a mask? I am having that problem. I wonder if anyone else is? Its quite serious.

Sue O'Donnell Sue O'Donnell 10:23 am 04 Aug 20

Have a few friends who are making masks, one friend has been inundated with orders for masks

Liz Bogue-Mahon Liz Bogue-Mahon 4:59 am 04 Aug 20

Or people with a disability. Some can't even afford food as many get below 500 dollars a fortnight. Everything is asset tested but lots of people are not allowed to use their assets because of border restrictions.

Fandangle Nemrod Fandangle Nemrod 11:57 pm 03 Aug 20

Why? Canberra did really well with the lockdown, and we are in a good position to close the roads or make them checkpoints

    Pioneer Angel Pioneer Angel 9:35 am 04 Aug 20

    How much would that cost in staffing and logistics? The cost of a mask is minuscule in comparison, so how can you reject masks but go straight for border checkpoints? That's ridiculous. Plus, as can be seen, people LIE at checkpoints (shock, horror!) when asked the simple question of whether or not they have been in a hotspot. Sydney isn't too far from Canberra.

Penelope Pollard Penelope Pollard 10:04 pm 03 Aug 20

I have beautiful handmade ones that were lovingly made by my mum and sister in lockdown in Melbourne..get sewing people!

Acton Acton 9:53 pm 03 Aug 20

We cannot spend the rest of our lives self isolating, socially distancing and cowering behind masks. Society can only temporarily avoid a virus. Trying to stop it won’t work and the measures taken are unsustainable. The more pragmatic response is to just accept its existence, get it eventually and get over it. Call it herd immunity or adapting to reality. The role of government is to do the greatest good for the greatest number, not to hand control over to people who foolishly think they can stop nature taking its course.

    JS9 JS9 4:22 pm 04 Aug 20

    While I can sympathise to some degree with this viewpoint, would we as Australian citizens really be happy with 14,000 dying from COVID-19, which is what we could estimate to be the outcome had we adopted the ‘Swedish’ model on a per capita basis?Let alone if it turned out worse as it has in some other countries that have taken the laissez faire approach.

    The problem Australia has now is we went down the containment approach, but we didn’t do what our cousins across the ditch did and went for full lockdown to eradication, then maintain closed borders until things are addressed overseas. We instead took a halfway house and are left with a messy situation as we have now, where flare-ups are inevitable.

Ãine Ní Tighearnaigh Ãine Ní Tighearnaigh 6:49 pm 03 Aug 20

Better to be proactive and wear a mask to reduce the risk. Many people just don't observe the Physical Distancing requirements, so a mask is a good option. .

HiddenDragon HiddenDragon 6:10 pm 03 Aug 20

“If we start to see cases in areas immediately surrounding the ACT, or we start to get new cases in Canberra, then wearing a face mask in public will feature as part of our response.”

Kerryn Coleman said something similar today – it sounded reasonable and nuanced, and consistent with the approach which the ACT Government has taken to date with virus rules for the general public.

Judy Carn Judy Carn 5:47 pm 03 Aug 20

I would rather wear a mask then an ventilator :)

Kay Harrison Kay Harrison 5:46 pm 03 Aug 20

I’m more than happy to wear my mask while out.

Kylee Taylor Kylee Taylor 4:18 pm 03 Aug 20

Are there any shops sell reusable ones? I have disposable ones but wanting some reusable ones too

Michelle McKenzie Michelle McKenzie 3:02 pm 03 Aug 20

VIC and NSW numbers are hardly comparable.

Tamara Habres Tamara Habres 3:02 pm 03 Aug 20

From someone locked down in Melbourne, if you can wear a mask, please do, so you don't end up grounded!

Julie Maynard Julie Maynard 2:48 pm 03 Aug 20

May as well get ready for the new norm. Sadly chemists around the ACT taking advantage of the situation. I paid $15 for 5 medical grade masks but have seen them for much more! How will unemployed people be able to keep themselves safe?

    Vincent Parrett Vincent Parrett 5:00 pm 03 Aug 20

    I did also get some tga approved masks from virafree.com.au $40 for 50.

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