You can’t always predict when you’ll need a mask

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You can’t always predict when you’ll need a mask
Queensland aerosol scientist Lidia Morawska was reported as saying she saw “no reason to wear masks outdoors”, but in the same article she suggests people should wear masks when they could not maintain a safe distance such as stopping for a chat or standing in line (“Doubt over masks and travel rules, say experts”, The Age, 12/6).

The reality is when you are living in a city of 4 million-plus it is not always possible to predict when you may find yourself unable to maintain a safe distance.

I have found myself queueing at the bakery with totally unaware, unmasked sociable others; I am quite likely to chat myself if I see a neighbour. Some of the 4 million others run, skate or pedal past me in the park or on crowded shared tracks and some, if the weather turns, may even jump on a tram with me.

Why not wear a mask?
Susan Mahar, Fitzroy North

Wearing masks makes a difference
If a public health doctor makes a mistake, it is front page news, if they get it right it may rate a mention somewhere inside. In the case of your front-page article (12/6), it is not a mistake that has been made, but a difference of opinions between Professor Brett Sutton and two other experts, professors Lidia Morawska and Peter Collignon.

Comparison of which states in US suffered worst and which states mandated or encouraged the wearing of masks shows that wearing masks made a difference.

If a surgeon makes a mistake the patient may die. If a public health officer makes a mistake, and the outbreak spreads, hundreds could die. Remember they are working with incomplete data and are trying to anticipate what the situation will be at some point in the future.

While the decisions of the health officer should be open to scrutiny, great care should be taken not to undercut that advice; in this case, by giving people an excuse not to wear a mask.
John Green, Beaumaris

Lockdowns must remain an option
The Age’s editorial (“Think smarter about future lockdowns”, 11/6) and the piece by Annika Smethurst (“COVID response heavy handed”, Comment 11/6) raise legitimate questions about the use of lockdowns.

Yet as with most articles criticising the “heavy handedness” of lockdowns, their analysis of the alternative proposition seems incomplete. Do we have absolute confidence that enhanced contact tracing and improved quarantine practices will prevent further large-scale outbreaks while we wait for vaccinations to offer enduring protection? What should public health officials do when the number of infections moves from five to 50 or 250? What is the impact on the health system when those infected require hospital care?

Surely actively controlling the spread of the virus through lockdowns must remain an option to avoid unnecessary fatalities and further compromising our already overburdened health services.
Brendan O’Hanlon, West Brunswick

The government must enforce compliance
Business owners trying to enforce the rules requiring masks to be worn on their premises have to deal with customers who claim to have an exemption without producing any proof and then complain about being refused service and the business owner is forced to apologise (“Ambiguity over masks hits small business”, The Age, 12/6).

That is ridiculous. If someone claims an exemption from wearing a mask, they should have to show proof of that. There also should be an audit of a sample of these exemptions to make sure they have not been granted for frivolous or trivial reasons.

If the government wants a large majority of Victorians to continue to follow its rules, then it needs to ensure that a minority cannot ignore the rules or game the system with impunity.

In that regard, what’s the latest on the fines that were issued last year? Is payment being enforced? If the government is not prepared to enforce its rules and penalties, then it undermines its credibility and it will find fewer and fewer people will follow its directives.
Tony Ralston, Balwyn North


It isn’t ‘that easy’
According to federal Water Minister Keith Pitt, it is “that easy” to go ahead with new dam infrastructure to the tune of $3.5billion, continuing to blatantly ignore scientific advice from Professor Mark Howden (“Minister firm on dams, despite caution”, The Age, 10/6).

When will Mr Pitt, an ardent supporter of the coal industry, stop this and start taking advice from those at the coalface who have the scientific data and facts to back them up? Professor Howden has already outlined this in discussing dropping average river flow in the region, and the Murray-Darling Basin Authority chief Phillip Glyde has also flagged environmental concerns.

While Mr Pitt continues to denounce science and remain pig-headed in his approach in supporting questionable investments, in this case to the tune of $3.5 billion, I question why the government is not using a scientific advisory body to assist in critical environmental decisions regarding infrastructure with total public transparency.

This could be coupled with an independent finance body to work comprehensively to advise on the best cost-benefit scenario, not just Mr Pitt telling attendees at a conference that ″⁣it’s that easy″⁣ because he sees it as the path of least resistance.
Julian Roberts, Burwood

We need some plans
The federal government appears to be taking the same non-committal approach to dealing with the pandemic as it is to tackling climate change.

If we take a few positive steps (investing in renewables technology, rolling out the vaccine) and wait for the rest of the world to sort it out, then we will eventually get to where we want to be (net zero carbon emissions, reopening our borders). What is lacking in both cases is a clear plan and timeline for achieving these objectives.

The pandemic plan would be linked to a scientifically based threshold for vaccination coverage of the population, and allow freedom of movement within and into Australia when that is reached. This target would be set at a level where the resulting spread of the virus can be managed by our health system.

In the case of both crises the government needs to act now, before the rest of the world leaves us behind and we pay the price economically, socially and morally.
Rick Dixon, Mount Eliza

The village is ready
Remember the proverb, “It takes a village to raise a child”. Media reports indicate that many inhabitants of the Queensland town of Biloela would welcome an involvement with the welfare of the Murugappan family. Such involvement would very likely bring a better outcome for the family than their remaining on Christmas Island or returning to Sri Lanka.

The legal process, itself a costly investment by the Australian community, has been disappointing. It’s brought a long path to an aborted deportation followed by a detention stalemate.

One problem is the win/lose nature of the media-scrutinised legal process and its necessary focus on the law rather than what would benefit the family and community without undermining other government efforts.

I would like the Australian government to acknowledge that the best outcome for the Murugappan family would be their return to a community that welcomes them. Proponents of the stalled legal process could be invited to step back to allow negotiation between the Immigration Minister and community about the conditions required to sponsor this outcome.

Who knows? Later follow-up of the success (or otherwise) of this pilot resolution may provide useful for handling related issues.
David Goddard, Eaglemont

It’s certainly deterring me
The Coalition’s and Labor’s asylum seeker policies are both based on deterrence, even though it means treating people like the “Biloela family” disgracefully.

It’s working, I’m deterred from voting for either of them.
Lawrie Bradly, Surrey Hills

These children have names
Words fail me when my country would stoop so low as to punish two small girls, born here and welcomed to the town to which they came, because it would “set a precedent and encourage people smugglers”.

Indeed, I heard on TV a Coalition MP refer to four-year-old Tharnicaa as “one of the individuals at present on Christmas Island needing medical treatment”. This is just another way to render the family faceless. This is a child with a name, who is bringing home to us the lengths to which rigid ideologues will go.

We talk about our “Australian values” and our Christian heritage, but the actions taken by my government here (and in other cases also) seem to reject all of the values that I have believed in and tried to live by for 80 years.

I add my voice to those whose support already has been given and ask that we behave, as a country, humanely.
Judith Nicholls, Doncaster

What, me worry?
Imagine my despair and absolute sadness to observe virtually no other person wearing masks outside this long weekend.

It appears to me that the areas and restaurants around Flinders, Red Hill, etc feel like they are immune to the virus and certainly above the law. People won’t even don a mask to walk into cafes.

And so often these are the very people you see and hear complaining loudly about lockdown and their personal losses.
Sandy McCrum, Shoreham

A profound reflection
“Go deeper, a narrative for survival” by Nyadol Nyuon (The Age, 12/6) is another profound reflection of hers. It promotes honesty and authenticity on how the impact of the pandemic can be for an individual.

Some days are easier than others. We each have to seek our own survival mechanisms and be mindful how challenging that can be for many. The pandemic can enfold us with much uncertainty, and as Nyuon quotes David Whyte, “human essence lies not in the arrival, but in being almost there”.

If we are able to see freedoms in much of what we took for granted before, such as watching twilight slip into darkness, a moment of rejoicing and tranquillity is at hand.
Judith Morrison, Mount Waverley

A change is needed
Your article claims the overall effect and ways in which lockdown has impacted students is still unfolding (“Generation C: Are the kids all right?”, The Age, 12/6).

Teachers and support workers know that the effects are, and will be, catastrophically profound. Dr Klaus Zierer is dead right when he says, “mental disorders are on the rise” in reference to students.

The Victorian government’s announcement of $9.57 million in extra funding for mental health services, although welcome, is a Band-Aid solution.

There needs to be a systematic change in the school system so that social and emotional engagement and learning is given the same importance and time as academic learning and a return to a strong focus on relational teaching.

There also needs to be a real effort to retain good and experienced teachers who can lead this change rather than the recruitment of 4000 teacher education students being seen as a solution.
Rohan Wightman, Muckleford

You can’t pick and choose
Defence Minister Peter Dutton says the military shouldn’t be “distracted by things that have happened in the past”, referring to the actions of some Australian special forces soldiers in Afghanistan. So, should we cancel Anzac Day?

You can’t pick and choose the past you want to live by. We need to understand our military history, warts and all.
Alistair Thomson, Fairfield

A sane suggestion
Almost buried at the end of Dr Katie Allen’s opinion piece (“Rapid test the way to a safer Australia”, The Age, 11/6), which urged the greater use of rapid antigen testing, is the remarkably sane suggestion that all returning travellers be vaccinated before returning. It is standard practice in certain quarters.

According to the BBC (12/6) guests on “all cruise ships operated by Royal Caribbean have to show proof of vaccination and a negative test before boarding”.

There will always be outbreaks after people return. But the vaccinated are much less likely to develop serious complications or to spread the virus should they get infected in hotel quarantine or are involved in an outbreak.

The necessary measures taken as a consequence of such outbreaks are financially crippling for governments to contain, often ruinous for businesses to endure and with negative societal disruptions.

The Australian government should be providing vaccines and tests before travellers return and insist on compliance. The cost is infinitesimal compared with containment after outbreaks and the small temporary reduction in our vaccine stockpile becomes acceptable.
Malcolm Just, St Kilda East

Everyone’s an expert now
To borrow from JFK, when visiting Berlin, Ich bin eine Epidemiologin.

Apparently we are all epidemiologists now – including but not limited to broadcasters, journalists, politicians, gym owners, doctors, restaurateurs, airline CEOs and fruitgrowers – so it’s hard to know who to believe.
Megan Stoyles, Aireys Inlet

No need to pander
Your correspondent wants Daniel Andrews to give a bedside interview and believes Mr Andrews’ right to privacy is now secondary to allaying the conspiracy theorists (“Speak to us, Premier”, Letters, 12/6).

Since when has there been a need to pander to the fabulists, distorters and fantasists to override a medical certificate?
David Fry, Moonee Ponds

Let them return
At last we have several courageous Coalition politicians who place children’s health above politics. These Tamil kids are Australians and cannot be victims of callous neglect and danger. The local community wants them back. Please, Immigration Minister Alex Hawke, let them return to their home in Queensland.

Remember how your illustrious namesake, Bob Hawke, offered asylum to Chinese students after the Tiananmen Square massacre.
John Miller, Toorak


How does Scott Morrison’s posturing as a leader on the international stage square with his determined abrogation of such responsibilities domestically?
Dale Crisp, Brighton


The Morrison government’s shameful robo-debt scandal sounded awfully like class war to me.
Phil Alexander, Eltham

Robo-debt was like a driverless bulldozer from the moment they let it go. How could they think nobody was going to get hurt?
Peter Bear, Mitcham

The National Archives
I would be a lot more sympathetic to the National Archives’ request for public donations if they hadn’t spent more than $1 million fighting to keep the ″⁣Palace Letters″⁣ hidden from the Australian public.
Vivien Wertkin, St Kilda

The pandemic
Why is it that during lockdown the parks are full, my steps are up, then out of lockdown the parks empty and my motivation for long walks disappears?
Kathy Diviny, Coburg

Victorian health officials aren’t currently over-reacting, when it’s remembered that we had more than 700 COVID cases in one day last year.
Malcolm McDonald, Burwood

Australian values
If locking up asylum seekers indefinitely and moving families to remote islands reflect Australian values, then I don’t like them one bit. David Eames-Mayer, Balwyn

The Biloela family
There is an exception to every rule. Please let the Tamil family return to Biloela.
Glenise Michaelson, Montmorency

I thought I would buy a sports cap like the tennis players wear, with the peak at the back, but the shops do not sell them. They only have caps with peaks at the front. Where can I get one?
Alfie Noakes, Oakleigh

Sun doesn’t always shine. The wind doesn’t always blow, but when it does coal doesn’t always deliver.
Tim Davis, Heidelberg

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