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Wednesday, January 27, 2021

Wearing a face mask should be the norm, Hunter doctor says

Should I wear a face mask? 

That’s a question many Hunter residents have asked themselves during another spike in COVID-19 cases across the state.

So, Newcastle Weekly spoke to Hunter General Practitioners Association Secretary, Dr Lee Fong, and a spokesperson from NSW Health to share some information about where, when and why you should wear a face mask. 

The NSW Health spokesperson advises that people should consider wearing a face mask in situations where it is difficult to maintain a physical distance of 1.5 metres. 

Wearing a mask can help protect you and those around you if you are in an area with community transmission, and physical distancing is not possible, like on public transport.

“In the Hunter, we’ve had a very good run for many weeks, but it now looks like community transmission is likely to increase in our region,” Dr Fong said.

“In places like shopping centres, supermarkets, buses and trams, wearing a face mask is looking like a great idea, both to protect the community and ourselves.  

“Remember – even if you or the person next to you is feeling perfectly well, you or your neighbour might have COVID-19 but be pre-symptomatic (or may even remain entirely asymptomatic) but still spreading COVID-19.  

Hunter General Practitioners Association Secretary, Dr Lee Fong.

“That’s why it’s important to wear a face mask even if you’re feeling completely well.”

In terms of what face masks to wear, Dr Fong said “any face covering is better than nothing”. 

If you cannot purchase face masks, there are even guides, Tik Tok videos and sewing patterns to make your own. 

Dr Fong added it “would be great if everybody would make their own decision to wear a face mask when leaving home”.

“We are going to have to live with COVID-19 for many months to come – perhaps even years – and so the sooner we make wearing a face mask the cultural norm, the better for everybody,” he said. 

“However, I suspect it will take mandatory face mask wearing before most of us will take that step.”

The NSW Health spokesperson added that it was really important to wear and take off a mask properly.  

When putting on a mask, you must wash or sanitise your hands before putting it on.

Make sure it covers your nose and mouth and fits snugly under your chin, over the bridge of your nose and against the sides of your face.  

It is also suggested that you do not touch it while it’s on and do not let it hang around your neck or under your nose.

When taking off a face mask, you should also wash and sanitise your hands and handle the mask by the ear loops or ties. 

Fold the outside corners together and, if reusable, store in a separate bag until you can take it home and wash it. 

After taking the mask off, you should wash or sanitise your hands again.

Both the NSW Health spokesperson and Dr Fong said it was still essential to maintain physical distancing and adhere to other COVID-19 protective measures while wearing a face mask.

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