22 January 2021

Masks mandatory at Canberra Airport, ACT confirms second repatriation flight in March

| Dominic Giannini
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Canberra Airport

All passengers flying domestically will be required to wear masks from midnight Friday (22 January). Photo: Dominic Giannini.

Face masks will be mandatory for domestic air travel and in Canberra Airport from midnight tonight (22 January) following a new public health direction issued by the ACT Government.

People aged 12 years and above will need to wear a mask while inside the airport terminal and during all flights in and out of Canberra.

Masks will not be required to be worn outside the terminal but must be kept on if passengers embark or disembark on the tarmac.

Face masks can be removed to prove your identity, and while eating, drinking or taking medication, during an emergency and to communicate effectively. Some exceptions and exemptions will be in place for the order, including for people with a disability who cannot keep a mask on at all times.

The face-covering must be designed to be worn over the mouth and nose and fit the face securely, meaning scarfs and bandanas are not permitted to be worn in place of a mask.

Airport police will be ensuring compliance and have the discretion to apply penalties if necessary, Chief Minister Andrew Barr said.

“If [someone] disobeys an order from police that will probably be subject to further action but that would be at the discretion of Australian Federal Police at the airport,” he said.

The Chief Minister also announced that the ACT would accept a second repatriation flight in the first half of March. The first repatriation flight is expected to land in Canberra in the first half of February.

READ ALSO ACT lifts travel restrictions on Sydney, but major population centres still off-limits

The Commonwealth Government is organising an extra 20 flights for the tens of thousands of Australians still stranded overseas.

Mr Barr has consistently said that the ACT would only accept one plane per 14-day quarantine cycle, and Health Minister Rachel Stephen-Smith previously noted that the ACT would only accept a flight when the number of people in quarantine dropped below 300.

The number of people in quarantine in the Territory fell to 112 at 3:00 pm today (22 January) after restrictions were lifted on nine Sydney local government areas and 449 people are allowed to leave isolation.

Incoming passengers will be required to enter hotel quarantine at the Pacific Suites Hotel on Northbourne Avenue.

The ACT will also move towards the daily testing of hotel quarantine workers to reduce the risk of the virus entering the community, Ms Stephen-Smith confirmed at the start of the week.

Daily testing would not be introduced until saliva-testing technology can be used in Canberra as the Health Minister said daily nasal swabs for workers were “unreasonable”.

“The good news is that technology has really come a long way. It is already being used in NSW and Victoria, and we are expecting to have that available before too long in the ACT as well,” she said.

Further details will be announced in February.

For more information on travelling and mask requirements, visit the ACT Government’s COVID-19 website.

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Massive Donk “Tex” T12:47 pm 23 Jan 21

An overview of the current evidence regarding the effectiveness of face masks.
1. Studies on the effectiveness of face masks
So far, most studies found little to no evidence for the effectiveness of cloth face masks in the general population, neither as personal protective equipment nor as a source control.
A May 2020 meta-study on pandemic influenza published by the US CDC found that face masks had no effect, neither as personal protective equipment nor as a source control. (Source)
A Danish randomized controlled trial with 6000 participants, published in the Annals of Internal Medicine in November 2020, found no statistically significant effect of high-quality medical face masks against SARS-CoV-2 infection in a community setting. (Source)
A July 2020 review by the Oxford Centre for Evidence-Based Medicine found that there is no evidence for the effectiveness of cloth masks against virus infection or transmission. (Source)
A May 2020 cross-country study by the University of East Anglia (preprint) found that a mask requirement was of no benefit and could even increase the risk of infection. (Source)

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