Mandatory masks on public transport coming soon

Mandatory wearing of face-masks across the country when on public transport is a new policy which comes into force next week. Although this may be challenging for some people, it is good that there is clear instructions and expectations about this. This will help to address some of the ambiguity or lack of clarity that has been reported by some about what behaviours they are being asked to do at each Alert Level. The requirement for people to wear face-masks on public transport at Alert Levels 2 or higher couldn’t be clearer.

As well as the other health behaviours we have got used to, like washing our hands frequently, and keeping physically distant, mask wearing needs to be adopted widely and quickly when in close quarters with others, such as public transport.

Just as many of us need to remember our bag / wallet, keys and cellphone when we leave the house – and indeed, we may not leave the house before we have found them – we now need to make sure that we have adequate masks for ourselves and our loved ones when we leave the house. Making the carrying and wearing of masks part of our routine when we leave the house, whether we plan to be on public transport or not, will help us to be prepared in unexpected situations where we might end up in close proximity to others.

In outlining the sheer number of tests that have been carried out over the last 15 days in Auckland, and around the country, about 25% of the total number of COVID-19 tests carried out in New Zealand since the start of the year, the Government have given us a sense of the scale of the response to this most recent community outbreak.

The expectation is clear that it will take time for the new cases from this outbreak to tail down to zero. And in order to keep control over this outbreak, Alert Level 3 will be maintained at Level 3 until the end of Sunday August 30. The reminder of the country is being asked to stay at Alert Level 3 until the end of Sept 6th – and that Alert Level will be reviewed before that time.

The decision to stay at Alert Level 3 in Auckland and Level 2 in the rest of the country may be disappointing for some, and it may also be reassuring for others. What is certain is that it is in keeping with a precautionary approach, informed by the evidence, trying to strike the balance between protecting people’s health and allowing them to move around and go about their business as much as is safely possible according to the risk assessment at the time.

It’s going to be really important that people adhere with the Alert Level advice as much as possible to make sure we can get down to lower Alert Levels as soon as possibly. And mandatory mask-wearing in public transport will hopefully contribute to the efforts in not having to escalate up Alert Levels again.

Go well out there.

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