Mask wearing in indoor settings is “highly recommended’ and critical to combat COVID-19, Prime Minister Scott Morrison has declared after a meeting of National Cabinet.
While Mr Morrison stopped short of saying Premiers in all states should mandate masks, he said it was recommended that they should be worn in indoor public settings.
It comes as NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet continues to stand firm on a decision to remove mask mandates from most settings last week.
Mr Morrison said while COVID-19 case numbers were soaring as a result of the Omicron variant, it was important to focus on hospitalisation figures instead.
“We’ve seen many challenges before. We are taking Omicron very seriously but at the same time we are confident that we’ll be able to continue to face down the most recent challenge,” he said.
“The good news today is that hearing from all the Premiers and Chief Ministers, although we have seen an increase in the number of cases, we have not seen a significant impact on our hospital system.
“This virus strain has only been in Australia for less than four weeks so it’s still early days.”
Mr Perrottet is sticking with a “personal responsibility” line, wanting to avoid backtracking and enforcing masks to combat rising case numbers.
NSW Chief Health Officer Dr Kerry Chant is among those recommending masks in indoor settings.
It remains to be seen whether NSW will change its approach following today’s National Cabinet meeting.
Londonderry MP and Deputy Labor Leader Prue Car said the Opposition supports the health advice.
“People are wearing masks, people are checking into venues, people are choosing to do this so that they can remain safe, and really, we want the government to be doing everything possible to avoid a lockdown at Christmas,” she said.
“People have been through hell over the past two years and they want to celebrate Christmas with their loved ones, and if this means that masks have to be made compulsory across the board, well then we will support that if it is based on the very best health advice provided to the government.”
Mr Morrison said National Cabinet agreed there needed to be a more consistent definition of what a ‘Close Contact’ or ‘Casual Contact’ is.
Troy Dodds is the Weekender’s Managing Editor and Senior Writer. He has more than 20 years experience as a journalist, working with some of Australia’s leading media organisations.