The identification of a new case of COVID-19 arriving at Ballina airport earlier in the week has reminded everyone in the Northern Rivers that there is still a need to practice social distancing, hand washing and begs the question should we all be wearing masks?
‘There is no need for greater effort from medical institutions like Byron Hospital or the Northern NSW Local Health District to issue a statement regarding the need for social distancing and the wearing of masks given Byron Bay’s many visitors,’ says Wayne Jones, the Chief Executive Officer for Northern NSW Local Health District.
Mr Jones explained that ‘There have been COVID cases previously in Byron Shire but, all bar one, has recovered and the latest one is in the postcode 2480 which excludes Byron Shire (It mainly consists of East Lismore, but does include Federal, Rosebank, Booyong, Dunoon, Corndale and Clunes)’.
When asked why so few people in public places in Byron Bay are not wearing masks Wayne Jones initially deflected the question saying, ‘I think it’s up to individuals to decide whether to wear a mask. There is no real evidence that compulsory mandated wearing of masks has a huge benefit.’
However, mask wearing is part of a comprehensive strategy to avoid COVID-19 transmission when social distancing is not possible or you are in an area where there is high community transmission. Currently mask wearing is being recommended in Victoria for people who are leaving the house who are living in an area with stage three restrictions.
When pressed Mr Jones added, ‘In saying that, I’m certainly not against it and if people feel more comfortable wearing a mask and we certainly are seeing an uplift in people wearing masks in our communities. So I strongly recommend any strategy that reduces the risk of COVID coming into our community, including the wearing of masks.
‘We are pushing very hard, reminding people of all of those strategies, physical distancing, and where appropriate, hand and respiratory hygiene. And we will continue to do so. With the latest case that’s been identified in our patch we will reinvigorate our campaign.
‘Now is not the time to be complacent. COVID is going to be here for an extended period of time. So just accept that physical distancing and hand and respiratory hygiene are here to stay.
‘But I want to emphasise the vast majority of people on the North Coast are doing the right thing.’