Territory Alliance calls for government to buy more face masks

by | Jul 23, 2020 | COVID-19, News | 0 comments

As demand for masks surges across Australia for COVID-19 prevention, Territory Alliance Leader Terry Mills has called on the Gunner government to produce a local supply of cloth masks and purchase surgical masks from Australian manufacturers.

The World Health Organisation has been encouraging people to wear masks in public to help combat the spread of COVID-19. The Victorian Government made wearing a mask in public mandatory from Thursday in coronavirus-hit Melbourne and the adjacent Mitchell Shire.

Australia’s acting chief medical officer Paul Kelly has earlier recommended people in Melbourne wear masks in public when physical distancing was not possible. This recommendation comes after increasing rates of community transmission in some parts of Victoria.

There have also been calls to make wearing masks compulsory for people in NSW amid fears of more coronavirus clusters surface.

Mr Mills proposed the NT government to purchase masks from Australian manufactures and make full use of local production capabilities of groups such as the Helping People Achieve (HPA) in Winnellie, a non-government organisation that provides employment and accommodation to Territorians with disabilites.

“HPA make cloth masks at competitive prices so it makes good economic and social sense for the NT Government to engage them to the limit of their capacities,” he said.

“It’s important to have the logistics of how the masks would be distributed throughout the Territory before the need arises.”

“Just as a high level of testing, contact tracing, social distancing and hand hygiene are critical to controlling coronavirus, masks are likely to become an essential component of our anti-COVID-19 strategies.

However on June 5 the WHO released new advice on using masks for COVID-19 prevention, saying that a non-medical or fabric mask had limitations.

“The lower filtration and breathability standardized requirements, and overall expected performance, indicate that the use of non-medical masks, made of woven fabrics such as cloth, and/or non-woven fabrics, should only be considered for source control (used by infected persons) in community settings and not for prevention,” WHO stated.

“They can be used ad-hoc for specific activities such as while on public transport when physical distancing cannot be maintained, and their use should always be accompanied by frequent hand hygiene and physical distancing.”

WHO said that medical masks meanwhile block droplets and particles while at the same time are breathable by allowing air to pass. It furthers that medical masks are regulated medical devices and categorized as PPE.

“The use of medical masks in the community may divert this critical resource from the health workers and others who need them the most. In settings where medical masks are in short supply, medical masks should be reserved for health workers and at-risk individuals when indicated,” WHO stated.

The NT Health Department did not respond for a request to comment on the issue.

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