Experts say Queensland is 'moving too soon' in easing mask restrictions

Queensland looks set to scrap many of its coronavirus restrictions, however a world-leading air quality and health expert says the state is “moving too soon”.

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk announced on February 22 that Queenslanders will no longer have to wear face masks in work, school or shops starting on March 4.

In addition, she said hospitality staff and patrons will not need to wear a mask. There will be no more restrictions on funerals. There will be no limit on how many people you can have in your home. Schools will be able to have visitors.

Yet air quality and health expert Lidia Morawska told the ABC that while Queensland was still recording thousands of new COVID-19 cases each day, the decision — which is backed by Chief Health Officer John Gerrard — was not a good one.

“Removing masks is not a good idea,” Professor Morawska said.

“The number of people infected in the community is very high.”

Where is Queensland at with COVID-19

Queensland recorded 37 new COVID-19-related deaths and 6,300 new cases in the latest report. More than 3,500 of those new cases have been through positive RATs.

The premier revealed that of those eligible, 92.59 per cent of Queenslander’s had had their first vaccination dose. Almost 91 per cent had received two doses of the vaccine. Sixty-three per cent of those eligible had received their booster.

In children aged five to 11 years, only 42.2 per cent have received their first dose.

Palaszczuk emphasized there should be an increase in the rate before mask and other restrictions are lifted.

However, Professor Morawska said relying on vaccination rates in the fight against coronavirus is not enough to protect the community.

“We haven’t taken many other measures to protect people, like improved ventilation in indoor spaces,” Professor Morawska said.

“If people are in proximity to each other, even with improved ventilation, infection risk is very high, so mask wearing is a very well protected measure.”

She said vaccinated people are still contracting COVID-19 and they are infectious to others.

“Vaccination, of course it’s absolutely necessary to reduce the severity of the disease,” she said. “But it is not completely removing the risk of infection.”

Professor Morawska expressed concern for immunocompromised people, saying it is not just about ‘living with the pandemic’ for them.

“The risk of infection can be the difference between life and death,” she said.

Keep your masks at the ready

The premier said Queenslanders would still need to wear masks in the following locations:

  • Public transport
  • Hospitals
  • Disability care centres
  • Prisons
  • Aged care centres
  • Airports
  • Planes.

Paul Griffin said Queensland might be able to handle the increase in cases caused by the easing of restrictions. The infectious diseases expert encouraged Queenslanders to have their masks readily available and be aware of situations where a mask may be necessary.

He said testing and isolating if you have symptoms, as well as vaccination, will be more important once restrictions ease.

“If you’re going to be somewhere where there’s prolonged indoor close contact, particularly with large numbers of people, I’d certainly encourage people to still strongly consider wearing their mask, particularly if you’re someone who’s vulnerable or at greater risk,” Professor Griffin told the ABC.

As everyone knows, the coronavirus pandemic is unpredictable and Queensland’s easing of restrictions does not mean it is over.

Written by Calista Bruschi

When she’s not moulding Play-Doh or dancing in the living room with her children, Calista Bruschi is an editor and writer. She has oodles of experience working on newspapers, magazines and websites. Calista likes to organise and be organised. She loves being a mum, Italian food, wine, sport and stationery. She hasn't sleep a full night in more than five years and is powered by coffee.

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