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Masking the dire problem

Opinion

Masking the dire problem

Jane Stephens wonders why our leaders refuse to reconsider mandating one simple protection against the growing pandemic fall-out.

Our resistance to mask wearing has me stumped. Our legislators’ and leaders’ resistance to telling us we must wear them has me even more perplexed.

Masks don’t hurt or cost much. They are a simple way to help slow the spread of a horrible, insidious disease that is causing new kinds of trouble.

Simply, they protect those around us from catching the virus from us. And even if we don’t love them, why so much resistance?

Covid-19 is on the march. A new variant has wormed its way in and the 50,000 people on the Sunshine Coast who have already had it are at risk again.

People are getting sick – in greater numbers than even at the so-called height of the pandemic. People are still dying.

So why are we not trying to protect ourselves and those we love? Why are our chief health officer (CHO) and political leaders stopping short of mandating masks again and instead talking loads about personal responsibility?

Our CHO said last week: “The future is not about public health measures and public health mandates.” But surely it is.

We have been told that we are all going to be infected with or directly affected by Covid in the coming days and weeks. But no one seems to be listening. I am one of few faces masked up on my bus to work, at the supermarket and my favourite cafe.

One group that does mask up is the health sector: those workers know how nasty this virus can be and how stretched the hospitals and systems are. They know we need to try to slow the rate of infection.

Things are dire out there. When public transport services are limited because so many drivers are sick, when surgeries are put off because there are insufficient staff to care for a patient, when sports events are cancelled and when airports grind to a halt because so many staff are ill, we have to do something different.

In The Dark Knight Rises, Batman advises a police officer who works alone to wear a mask. The policeman says he is not afraid to show his face. Batman replies: “The mask is not for you. It’s to protect the people you care about.”

Surely, this is one of the most under-used lines of the pandemic.

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Jane Stephens is a USC journalism lecturer, media commentator and writer.

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