The official advice on masks has continued to be they are effective in situations where social distancing is not possible.
Marie Bashir Institute for Emerging Infections and Biosecurity’s Lyn Gilbert recommended masks where physical distancing is not possible, such as on public transport, but cautioned against choosing N95 masks.
“We don’t recommend the use of N95 masks outside of particular situations, outside of hospitals,” Professor Gilbert said. “N95 masks are difficult to fit and uncomfortable to wear.
“Unless they’re properly fitted they’re no more effective, in fact possibly less effective, than a conventional surgical or even cloth mask.”
AMA national president Tony Bartone warned that isolation, physical distancing, and regularly washing your hands is more effective at reducing transmission than masks.
“It must be made very clear – masks are not a silver bullet, particularly when not worn correctly,” Dr Bartone said.
“If masks are worn, it is vitally important to learn how to properly fit and wear masks.
“Always wash your hands before applying a mask, and strap the mask behind your ears. Masks must cover the mouth and nose.
“Make sure the mask is fitted tightly. A loose mask is ineffective. Do not remove your mask if you are within 1.5 metres of other people. Do not use masks while exercising.
“Do not wear a mask that is damaged, wet, or old.”
Dr Bartone said there has been considerable debate about the value of masks in containing the spread of the virus, but there is no debate that masks, where appropriately used and correctly fitted, do provide some level of protection in areas of sustained community transmission.
“Masks are not a panacea. There must also be hand hygiene, cough etiquette, and compliance with public health orders. Complacency with mask use can be more dangerous than not wearing them.
“The AMA wants a detailed and instructive public education campaign on the best type of masks or face shields and how to correctly use them.”