Daniel Andrews faced the heat again today, firing up at a reporter when pressed over the logic of wearing a face mask in certain circumstances.
The Victorian Premier announced just five new coronavirus cases in his state today, and was asked about MP Bill Tilley’s call for face masks or coverings to no longer be mandatory outside of metropolitan Melbourne.
In a post to Facebook this morning, Mr Tilley wrote the lack of eased restrictions in regional Victoria were a “disappointment” – while calling out the Premier’s announcement that “face mask rules will be tightened”.
All residents are now required to wear a fitted face mask – which covers the nose and mouth – instead of a scarf, bandana or face shield, Mr Andrews said yesterday.
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“I am here to comment on health advice. I have gone further. I’ve been clear in my judgment, significant benefit – very low cost,” the Premier said, when questioned over Mr Tilley’s comments.
“I know they are not pleasant to wear. If you are like you or I who wear glasses, it is challenging. Really? I mean … like … compared to everyone being locked in their homes and people needing machines to breathe?
“I reckon I can deal with foggy glasses. I reckon you can too. I think that Bill needs to just have a look at the broadest context and it is significant benefit, low cost.”
“Is someone by themselves in regional Victoria going for a walk, you know, and there is no one else in the same square kilometre as them, is it silly for them to have to wear a mask?” The Australian’s state political reporter Rachel Baxendale pressed.
Mr Andrews then fired up, asking Baxendale, “What’s the issue, Rachel? What is … Seriously, what’s the issue? Why is it such a massive issue?”
To which she replied, “The fact it serves no health purpose if …”
“That’s kind of … that’s an esoteric debate, isn’t it?” the Premier cut in.
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“That isn’t really like … Maybe there will be a time when we have the luxury of having those sorts of debates … You wear a mask because it’s of some benefit. How much benefit? Always difficult to – as I’ve said to break down all the things we’ve done and have an absolute percentage benefit that’s attributed to each one.
“I think they play an important part. There will come a time when they’re not needed. When that time comes, then people won’t have to wear them.
“But far from easing this, I can tell you the public health team are motivated to make sure that these shields without a face covering and a fitted face covering and mask are not enough.
“We have given people a couple of weeks to transition away from those. I thank them for doing their best. The evidence is that they don’t have the same impact.
“Whilst it would be preferable if everybody wore at least a two-ply mask that was fitted, it is … Anything is better than nothing. But the face coverings need to be fitted as well.
“Look, in general terms, I’m proud of Victorians, particularly Melburnians, because they got to this place earlier. People have said, ‘Look, this is an inconvenience. But it’s something I can do and something I should do. If it gets me out, able to move around, get back to work faster than it otherwise would, it’s the right thing to do.’”
The heated exchange comes just days after Mr Andrews was grilled by reporters regarding a string of ministers and senior bureaucrats continuing to claim ignorance over hotel quarantine failures.