Serious threat: Mask warning amid fears of second wave
Queenslanders should never go out without a mask as the state will not escape a second wave of COVID-19, one of the nation's top infectious disease experts has warned.
As the state's Chief Health Office Jeannette Young highlights her own concern over community transmission, Professor Robert Booy insists there has never been a more important time for Queenslanders to understand that COVID-19 is a serious death threat.
But it comes as Queensland Deputy Premier and Health Minister, Steven Miles, said carrying a mask in public was not necessary in the Sunshine State.
"Any prudent Queenslander should always have a mask in their pocket or their bag for times when it is not possible to social distance, like public transport, anywhere that is a bit cramped. The second wave is likely to be more dangerous," Prof Booy, a professorial fellow at National Centre for Immunisation Research and Surveillance (NCIRS), said.
But Mr Miles said there was a very low risk of being exposed to the virus in Queensland.
"When that changes, the Chief Health Officer will provide advice to that effect," he said.
"At the moment, the health advice is that masks aren't necessary."
Deputy Chief Health Officer Sonya Bennett said the community was not recommended to wear a mask in Queensland, because the level of community transmission was not as high as it is in Melbourne.
Mr Miles yesterday announced that Dr Bennett had been appointed Queensland's deputy chief health officer - giving her the power to issue health directions and declare disease hot spots.
The Deputy Premier said the role had been created so that Dr Young could delegate some of her powers.
Queensland recorded no new cases of coronavirus on Saturday, with five active cases across the state - including two people in hospital.
Further south, NSW recorded 15 new cases, while in Victoria 357 new cases were confirmed, with 42 in intensive care and more five deaths.
Premier Daniel Andrews on Saturday declined to rule out further restrictions.
"Masks are effectively our stage four," he said.
Mr Miles said the government was concerned about the number of new cases in Victoria.
He said there were no further restrictions that were under "active consideration" after the government last week removed the right for patrons to stand at licenced venues.
"All I would say to pubs and clubs and to their patrons is this all about trying to keep you open," he said.
Prof Booy said transmission was becoming harder to identify.
"In the first wave we were able to recognise where the cases came from and enforce isolation as they were travellers returning to the country. Now the chains of transmission are much harder to identify, people in the community can have the virus but be asymptomatic," he said.
"Also after six months of social isolating many Queenslanders are thinking that the state has done well during the pandemic and are very wrongly assuming they are now safe."
The expert said it has never been more important for young people to practice COVID-19 safety.
"I am particularly worried about the people who have snuck into the state and could be anywhere. They could be carrying the disease into rural and regional areas or into Aboriginal communities where the people are particularly vulnerable," he said.
Sales of face masks have spiked in Queensland since Victoria's second wave emerged and retailers are confident they have enough to meet demand for the foreseeable future.
Paddington Central Pharmacy has sold twice as many masks this month than they did in June, with customers citing concerns Queenslanders have become complacent with social distancing.
"We're hearing a lot that people have become complacent, which they have, we keep telling people on cold and flu tablets to go and get tested (for coronavirus) and they laugh at us," owner Simon Sponza said.
Specialist occupational medic Dr Keith Adam said masks are a good idea for Queenslanders who are immunocompromised or who are travelling on public transport.
He said a surgical mask would stop the wearer infecting others, but to protect yourself from infection, you need a P2 or N95 mask, which filters out 95 per cent of fine aerosol particles.
Homemade face masks with three layers of fabric may also reduce the risk of spreading the virus if constructed, stored and washed correctly, but a sock or bandana has been shown to provide inadequate protection.