Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews is refusing to bow to pressure and ease rules around mask wearing despite a leading infectious diseases specialist casting doubt on their true value in the fight against COVID-19.
Professor Peter Collignon from Australian National University said there was no point to wearing masks in low-risk settings such as playing golf or fishing alone in virus-free regional areas.
"I can't tell you how long, but they will be here for as long as the public health team put it to me that they have a significant benefit," he said.
"Victorians are doing an amazing job wearing masks, no one enjoys it, it is not necessarily something you would choose to do.
"It is about having rules in place that have a very low cost and a potentially very high benefit."
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But Professor Collignon said all measures in combatting coronavirus had to be proportionate to the risk at the time.
There are just six COVID-19 cases across regional Victoria where the government has eased restrictions quicker than Melbourne due to low case numbers, but mandatory mask wearing was still required with a $200 fine for people caught without a proper face covering.
"If there are hundreds of cases, wearing masks is a good idea, but if you've got almost none, wearing masks in situations where the risk is really low, you will end up with a compliance problem because it doesn't make biological sense," Professor Collignon said.
@DanielAndrewsMP referenced a few countries to justify his measure of mask wearing in all settings.— Kane (@k11s__) September 29, 2020
None of the 3 countries (Germany, Taiwan (Hi Xi!) and South Korea) have mandatory mask wearing in all settings. No masks required outdoors or outside metro Seoul.#COVID19Victoria
"If you are in a really low risk situation like being outdoors playing golf what is the point of wearing a mask?"
Member for Indi Helen Haines is backing Mr Andrews on masks.
"Victoria has made huge progress on the containment of COVID-19," she said.
"I understand that people find mask wearing uncomfortable but we should stick with the chief health officer's instructions.
"There are already some lawful exemptions to wearing a mask."
Mr Andrews said the state risked a third wave if masks rules were eased.
"It is not question whether you'd like to wear a mask. It is a question between the imposition and burden of wearing a mask versus the imposition and burden of restrictions coming back on because the virus gets away from us," he said.