Victorian chief health officer Professor Brett Sutton says decisions about face masks will be made when the state reaches the 14-day and 28-day milestones of no COVID-19 cases.
As the state recorded another “doughnut day” of no new cases, Prof Sutton was asked by one journalist on Sunday how many days of zero cases needed to be recorded across Victoria “before we can take off the masks”.
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The CHO conceded that date is “not entirely clear” but the roadmap to ease restrictions includes a ‘Last Step’ of a fortnight with no new cases.
“That would be a significant achievement,” he said.
“It is absolutely not impossible and we’re on track for that in November, that would be great. Twenty-eight days of no cases and no active cases, we’ve talked about as the ‘COVID Normal Step’. That’s also within reach and we’d make decisions about masks for those thresholds as well.”
Victoria recorded no new coronavirus cases or deaths on Saturday or Sunday as Melburnians enjoyed their first weekend of freedom since hospitality and retail reopened.
“Clearly if there is no transmission at all, masks are not a requirement,” Prof Sutton said.
“What we shouldn’t be complacent about is thinking that if we’ve got a few days with no cases, that there is never a requirement for masks.
“Country Victoria went for a few weeks with zero cases but all the people of Shepparton, I’m sure, were very happy that they were wearing masks at the time that there were three active cases out in the community for over a week before we understood that they were active cases.
“So masks are important for those potential transmission events when we don’t know that there’s something out there.
“Clearly we will be transitioning … from universal mask wearing to maybe indoors only, to maybe just high-risk settings at the appropriate time.
“Masks are a small impost for the individual, for us collectively, to get us to the freedoms that we’re all looking for and beginning to enjoy.”
He said the “irony” of anti-mask protests on Saturday “is that they were protesting the very things that have got us to this point in time”.
“The very things that are allowing us to have the freedoms that we want and that we’re winning,” Prof Sutton said.
“It’s madness to give up on some of these small imposts when they’re exactly the thing that are getting this these zero days and are getting us to the summer that we want and the summer that we should have.”