On the day the NSW government dropped its mask mandate for most indoor settings, the state’s Chief Health Officer Dr Kerry Chant encouraged people to keep wearing them.
Dr Chant used her time in front of the media at Wednesday’s COVID update to reiterate that she is continuing to strongly encourage people to wear masks when in indoor settings, calling it a “community-minded action”.
“From a public health position, I am strongly recommending we keep masks and I’m asking the community to do so,” Dr Chant said.
“It’s a small price to pay. I know it can fog up glasses and it can be annoying. But it’s a very tiny act. You’re actually protecting yourself but more importantly you’re protecting others.”
On Wednesday, the state government changed its rules so that masks are no longer legally required in NSW in most indoor settings, only in high-risk environments such as public transport or in airports.
“That simple action is very much a community-minded action, and I would urge us to continue to wear those masks in indoor settings,” Dr Chant said. “Secondly, just at this time think about the nature of settings you chose for your functions. Picnics, outdoor cafes, we’ve got a beautiful environment now that it’s stopped raining, so use those settings – they are much lower risk.”
On Thursday, NSW reported 1,742 cases, the highest daily number recorded for the state since the pandemic began. No new deaths were reported. There are 192 people in hospital and 26 of those are intensive care.
The number of hospitalisations has increased by 26 patients since Wednesday.
As his government dropped its mask mandate for most indoor settings, Premier Dominic Perrottet said the government had considered Dr Chant’s health advice regarding masks, but the decision was about “balance”.
“We recommend masks. We’ve taken the advice into account. It’s always a balance in terms of the approach the government takes and that’s the decision we’ve made,” Perrottet said.
“As we’re heading into this Christmas period … there’s no doubt shopping centres will be busier we just say please take personal responsibility.”
Perrottet also said people in NSW should shift their thinking, away from concerns about daily case numbers, to a focus on hospitalisations and ICU numbers.
“What we’re saying today is that we are learning to live alongside the virus. Vaccination has been key to that. The key message today for the people of NSW is thank you for the efforts you’ve made, in addition that, please continue to take personal responsibility.”
Dr Chant reminded people that as the Omicron variant continues to spread across the state, it’s possible to be infectious even if you don’t realise yet that you have the virus.
“I’d just remind you that often don’t know you’ve got Covid and you’re infectious. You’re infectious before you even get symptoms,” she said.
“We do want to preserve Christmas. I know many people have had their Christmas plans interrupted and this may be the first time people are able to reunite across state borders or boundaries.
“So please just limit your activities and your social networks and your interactions. Be safe in that time so we can keep those special occasions not impacted by COVID.”