Greg Hunt says masks could become mandatory in areas with COVID-19 community transmission – as WHO says pandemic isn’t even close to being over

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The Health Minister has warned wearing a mask in public could be encouraged or even made mandatory in places like Victoria where community outbreaks have taken place – contradicting earlier Government advice.

Federal health authorities refused to back the widespread public use of face masks at the start of the pandemic, saying they were not necessary and supplies should be saved for frontline workers.

But on the ABC’s 7.30 Report, Mr Hunt said the Communicable Diseases Network of Australia (CDNA) and the nation’s medical network panel were now working together to develop a set of protocols.

They could also be advised for use on public transport or situations where people are in close proximity.

So, will that include aged care?

Australia does now have a stockpile of 220 million masks according to the Minister.

The comments come as World Health Organization (WHO) chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told a briefing on Monday that the pandemic is not even close to being over.

“We all want this to be over. We all want to get on with our lives. But the hard reality is that this is not even close to being over,” he said.

“Although many countries have made some progress globally, the pandemic is actually speeding up.”

The briefing also advised that while progress had been made towards finding a safe and effective vaccine, there was still no guarantee that one would be found – again, an issue that will impact on providers and their level of infection controls moving forward.