Mandatory masks 'historic moment for New Zealand'

Professor Michael Baker: "I love the Olympics, and I really feel for the athletes who trained so...
Professor Michael Baker. Photo: ODT files
Mandatory mask wearing is here to stay, a top epidemiologist says, as New Zealanders mask up in the country’s first outbreak of the Delta variant.

University of Otago, Wellington, epidemiologist Prof Michael Baker said when mask wearing was made mandatory at businesses open to the public in Alert Level 4, it was a historic moment for the country.

The new rules represented a huge shift in policy, he said.

While ‘‘mass masking’’ was new here, it would likely become a useful part of New Zealand’s response to the pandemic from now.

He did not believe it would always be mandatory to wear a mask in supermarkets, for example, he said.

But mask wearing would become normal as a way to deal with outbreaks.

‘‘It’s a tool, that like every other tool, needs to be used appropriately,’’ Prof Baker said.

‘‘We’re just recognising that if you’ve got a respiratory pathogen, the thing that stops it going from one person to another is a mask.

‘‘And particularly when you don’t have other tools, you don’t have vaccines, you’ve got to really use all these public health measures that are available.’’

Early on in the pandemic there was an obsession with surfaces, he said, but since then, the evidence emerged that transmission of the virus was almost entirely respiratory.

It was carried through the air, and quite easily.

In many other countries where there had not been the possibility of eliminating the virus mass masking was relied on as a tool to ‘‘dampen down’’ transmission.

Mass masking was important for different reasons than the reasons why high quality masks were used by health workers, he said.

They were exposed day after day to the virus.

But if everyone wore even a basic mask, they had a very important role in stopping the virus from spreading.

University of Otago clothing and textile sciences Prof Raechel Laing said not all masks were created equal.

Faces varied as well and cloth masks differed widely. Some had more layers, or different layers, some were single-use and others could be cleaned and reused.

Performance in protection varied, she said. While surgical masks were one size only, they could be pinched close to the nose and ear loops could be twisted to give a closer fit.

The Ministry of Health recommends about four fabric reusable (washable) face masks per person.

Face coverings such as a bandana or scarf were suitable if masks were not an option, the ministry website says.

If worn as a mask, a scarf should be folded three times before it was tied.

Dust masks were not recommended if they had a one-way valve, which would allow droplets to spread if a person coughed or sneezed, it says.


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Effectiveness of Adding a Mask Recommendation to Other Public Health Measures to Prevent SARS-CoV-2 Infection in Danish Mask Wearers

Annals of Internal Medicine, March 2021

"(...)The recommendation to wear surgical masks to supplement other public health measures did not reduce the SARS-CoV-2 infection rate among wearers by more than 50% in a community with modest infection rates, some degree of social distancing, and uncommon general mask use(...)"

It seems that face masks are not a silver bullet...

The point being... "infections in the wearer". The mask reduces infection risk for everyone else...

Exactly. Team game, team game.

The captain and star player dropped the ball, there is no team of 5 million, I'm out

Give it a rest Baker, this is not historic at all. A lot of doctors and scientists much more qualified than you are starting to come out saying that masks for people who aren't sick don't do anything...

Thank you for cherry picking one part of tis report. The authors acknowleged a number of flaws with their study which basically say "here are our results, but we could have done this better." AS has been pointed out ad-nauseum, masking stops YOU from spreading germs, and a does offer some protection to the wearer from catching them (As your selective quote pointed out) and it's the combination that works. Heres the reference to the report the OP was too lazy to provide:

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