Face masks may stay for good, even after ACT COVID mandates wind down

Damien Larkins 19 November 2021 153
Sir Robert Menzies statue wearing a mask

Face masks could be here to stay in Canberra. Photo: Michelle Kroll.

Facemasks may become a common feature of life in Canberra as people choose to wear them long after COVID-19 public health mandates end.

They’ve been a sometimes divisive but highly visible tool in the ACT’s battle to contain the coronavirus.

Some people love them, some hate them, others simply pull their facemask on as advised by public health officials and get on with their day.

Mask mandates were eased significantly on Friday (12 November), reduced to only being needed in ‘high risk’ settings like hospitals, aged care and public transport.

But across the weekend, people were still choosing to wear them in public places they were no longer required.

READ ALSO: It’s finally freedom day, so what can I do now?

Professor of psychology Kate Reynolds from the Australian National University’s College of Health and Medicine says mask-wearing could become just a normal part of life.

“Most people are going to wear masks if they believe it’s to keep themselves and others safe,” she says.

“If you were elderly or you thought you were at more serious risk of complications if you got COVID, you may well be choosing to wear those masks.

“I think people would see that now as being very acceptable in a way that wasn’t the case 18 months ago.”

Factors driving that decision include assessing personal risk, seeing others wear them, empathy, and if you thought it made a difference.

“They’re the things that have really driven mask-wearing in the context of COVID, and we would think that the same kind of things would drive the mask-wearing more generally,” Professor Reynolds says.

“It’s possible that depending on what’s going on or whether you’re in a high-density space or whether you perceive there’s a risk, you may well go for that mask again and put it on.”

Sign warning Canberrans about new mask requirements

Will you still wear a mask, even if you are not being told to? Photo: Region Media.

In some countries, face masks were already commonplace in daily life before the pandemic, usually to reduce the transmission of seasonal colds and flu.

But Professor Reynolds says that choice was often driven by high population density.

Though we’re lucky to have more space here, there may still be situations where we can’t avoid close proximity like planes, public transport and busy shopping centres, and “if you’re feeling unwell, or if you know you’re travelling,” she says.

“If I know there’s lots of people there, I might want to put my mask on.”

It’s not just the pandemic that has helped to entrench our mask-wearing habits in Canberra.

Many people wore them during the bushfires to reduce smoke inhalation, which further normalised their use.

“We’ve all got them now, we know how to use them, we have them at hand, lots of people did start buying different masks around the bushfires,” she says.

“For Canberra, we’ve had both of those events that have trained people very well to put a mask on.”

READ ALSO: Canberrans embrace personal COVID-19 styles

Locals embraced mask-wearing to the point that they became a symbol of style and personality.

The black cotton face mask became as recognisably Canberran as the puffy black jacket (and they matched well together in an outfit too).

Some may simply not be ready to discard their collections like last season’s fashion trend.

“I’ve got a drawer full of them,” Professor Reynolds adds with a laugh, “so it would be good for all that not to go to waste.”

In a statement to Region Media, ACT Health says although restrictions are easing, people should continue to practise COVID-safe behaviours.

They also strongly encourage mask-wearing where physical distancing isn’t possible and in other high-risk settings.

“Some people may choose to continue to wear a face mask in other settings if that is what feels comfortable for them,” a spokesperson says.

“Face masks protect you and the broader community, including those who are unable to get vaccinated, such as children under 12.”

So we could see more Canberrans could make wearing a mask a personal choice in a post-pandemic future (whenever that may be).

What's Your Opinion?

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153 Responses to Face masks may stay for good, even after ACT COVID mandates wind down
Fiona Marsden Fiona Marsden 11:15 pm 18 Nov 21

There is a reason why the act has done so well in this pandemic, A bit of educated common sense throughly applied goes a long way!!

Ray Young Ray Young 9:23 pm 18 Nov 21

Bog that.

Amy Forrest Amy Forrest 3:33 pm 17 Nov 21

Yes we are still wearing ours everywhere but feel much safer doing so.

Andrea Pitsilos Andrea Pitsilos 11:36 pm 16 Nov 21

Taylor Pitsilos maybe they didn't have coldsores after all 😅😅

Christopher Cuba Rabanal Christopher Cuba Rabanal 8:38 pm 16 Nov 21

It’s just common sense, to keep them on whilst everyone else takes them off.

I’ll let you be the test dummy and see what happens…

If nothing happens in the next month than yeah.

Besides I stockpile them so I have to use them all. 😝

Bill Jackson Bill Jackson 7:35 pm 16 Nov 21

Yes. Happy to do so. Will also continue to cary and use hand sanitiser and socially distance.

Belinda Konz Belinda Konz 10:36 am 16 Nov 21

I will keep wearing mine in situations where I can't social distance. Do or don't, personal choice and shouldn't be anyone's business either way. Please understand tho that many businesses are choosing to continue to protect their staff by keeping masks inside - don't be awful to the staff who are just trying to do what they have been told (saw this happen a few times yeaterday).

Jennifer Moriarty Jennifer Moriarty 10:19 am 16 Nov 21

My immune system is compromised and my specialist said I should be wearing one till at least May next years depending on how things go with vaccinations and cases.

TheSilver TheSilver 6:41 am 16 Nov 21

Meta-study after meta-study, literature review after literature review continuously shows the evidence of mask efficacy is mixed at best, and particularly for cloth masks, nothing more than decoration:

Wear one if you want, but don’t think it is accomplishing anything, and there is even some evidence they are harmful.

Peter Stevenson Peter Stevenson 5:17 am 16 Nov 21

I think I will still wear mine when I feel it’s necessary to do so. If it’s windy outside with dust and debris flying around they work well for that. Also I feel more protected against the odd person walking around or sitting in a venue having a chesty cough session. Biological particles unseen by the human eye is all it takes to inhale nasty bacteria. 😷

Ledy Rowe Ledy Rowe 11:31 pm 15 Nov 21

My life, my choice. I will wear one whenever I assess that it would be prudent for my future health to do so.

Danielle Lou Lou Hurst Danielle Lou Lou Hurst 11:24 pm 15 Nov 21

Yep wear mine especially outdoors with this crazy pollen! Now I just need to were goggles and I'll be set.... no more hayfever 😂

Ben Drysdale Ben Drysdale 11:23 pm 15 Nov 21

Yeah a bit in certain circumstances… mainly as my wife’s about to bring a baby into this world so hoping to minimise the possibility I catch it randomly and am kept outta the hospital

Jan Gulliver Jan Gulliver 11:17 pm 15 Nov 21


Sally Gillberg Sally Gillberg 10:45 pm 15 Nov 21

Yes but only because of the extreme pollen levels. Hate looking like a crazy but hate hay fever more!

Kirstyn McLeary Kirstyn McLeary 9:42 pm 15 Nov 21

I’m still required to at work and I still choose to depending on how many people or how crowded a place is.

I don’t think I’ll ever give it up for good, even when we’re through this pandemic. I’m currently recovering from the damage of having pneumonia because someone sneezed on me.

Happy to make masks a part of everyday life post covid.

Linda Walker Linda Walker 8:47 pm 15 Nov 21

I choose to continue to wear a mask for at least the next couple of weeks.

We're in the habit and are used to wearing masks so no biggie there

Given we've just been released from health lockdown and the gestation period is up to 2 weeks, I want to protect myself and my family by continuing to follow better practice

Craig Rogerson Craig Rogerson 8:22 pm 15 Nov 21

Many Canberrans are moorons

Kay Harrison Kay Harrison 8:09 pm 15 Nov 21

Yes I do in shopping centres and of course hospitals still mandatory.

Onelia Herriot Onelia Herriot 8:09 pm 15 Nov 21

Wore mine at the supermarket as it was impossible to socially distance.

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