Dr Chris Moy - Masks should be mandatory in Sydney

1 Jan 2021

Transcript:   AMA Vice President, Dr Chris Moy, Seven, Sunrise with Mark Beretta and Edwina Bartholomew, Friday, 1 January 2021

Blurred figures in a crowd

Subject:   Mandatory mask wearing to combat COVID

EDWINA BARTHOLOMEW:            Australia is entering the New Year as a nation divided, with multiple States reinstating hard borders in response to COVID outbreaks in Sydney and Melbourne.

MARK BERETTA:     It comes amid fresh calls for masks to be made mandatory in Sydney. Joining us now is the Australian Medical Association's Vice President, Dr Chris Moy. Chris, good morning to you. Happy New Year. The NSW AMA President has called for masks to be made mandatory, but the Government is just holding off for now, saying it's following health advice. Why are the masks so important?

CHRIS MOY:             Well, we think it's a pretty ridiculous decision by the NSW Government not to go down this line. You’re dealing with odds here. You're trying to lower your odds of COVID spreading, and we know that mask wearing lowers your odds by about 30 per cent. Now, in a game of chance and odds against an enemy like COVID, you want to have everything in your favour, especially with something as easy as this. It just doesn't make sense why masks are not mandatory.

We’ve heard the arguments about, oh, well, the bus drivers can't be monitoring this. The problem with not mandating it at the moment is that it's places like businesses, supermarkets, and places like that - they're not directing their staff to wear masks at the moment, and I think it's partly that, and also the fact that by having the mask wearing, even if you signal that you're going to make it mandatory, you can actually phase people into this. We just think the decision doesn't make sense, and lowering the odds is what really you should be doing at the moment, given the uncertainty about what's happening in Sydney.

EDWINA BARTHOLOMEW:            I guess one of the things holding them from doing this is that then police will have to enforce it if masks are made mandatory. But what's your message to people this morning thinking: should I wear a mask when I go out to the shops, to the supermarket? How much of a difference does it actually make to contracting coronavirus?

CHRIS MOY:             Well, I think the first thing is that as an individual, if you have it, you're less likely to pass it on. And then if you're the other person near somebody who might have it, you lower your odds of contracting it. It's been shown. Even if you were to contract it, you may get a lower dose of the virus, which either may mean you don't get the infection or that you may not get it as severely. It does make a difference. I think the odds are at least 25-30 per cent, those sort of numbers. As I said, in a game of chance against an enemy which is out there lurking and you don't know where it is, you want to lower your odds. It makes no sense that masks are not mandatory or being signalled to be mandatory in Sydney.

MARK BERETTA:     Chris, what are your members being told about the distribution of the vaccine when that comes in March? How will that work? Do you have much information yet?

CHRIS MOY:             Look, at the moment, it's still on track, and I think where we are at the moment, Australia is - because we're not in an emergency - we're going through the normal approval processes, so that everybody can be reassured that when they get their vaccine, it's the same as any other vaccine they've had, that we've gone through every checks and balance. So that'll probably end probably closer to the end of January, and then the rollout will probably occur starting from March or so.

There are logistical difficulties, particularly with the Pfizer vaccine, because of the way it has to be kept at ultra-low temperatures. The AstraZeneca, if that gets approved, will be a lot easier to give out, but there are still practical problems there in making sure that people get the right education, can give consent, and then we make sure that we get proper recording of people getting firstly their number one injection and then the second injection and keeping a track of that.

EDWINA BARTHOLOMEW:            Alright. Dr Chris Moy, thank you so much for your time from Adelaide this morning. And the NSW Government says they're taking advice from health authorities; that's a pretty big health authority, the AMA.

1 January 2021