Spurrier writes to peak bodies encouraging mask-wearing

Chief public health officer Nicola Spurrier has written to six higher education providers along with the state’s peak bodies for business and local government encouraging mask-wearing during the current COVID-19 wave.

Aug 03, 2022, updated Aug 03, 2022
SA Health compliance officers will soon be handing out masks on public transport. Photo: Thomas Kelsall/InDaily

SA Health compliance officers will soon be handing out masks on public transport. Photo: Thomas Kelsall/InDaily

University of South Australia vice-chancellor David Lloyd revealed earlier this week that Spurrier had provided him with “specific updated information for the higher education sector” about the state’s wave of Omicron BA.4 and BA.5 cases.

Lloyd said Spurrier’s health advice included a recommendation for mask-wearing in shared spaces and moving to online meetings and teaching “wherever possible” – advice which the university has implemented despite calling the measures “regrettable”.

A spokesperson for SA Health confirmed Spurrier has “written to six higher education providers, Business SA and the Local Government Association”, to encourage mask-wearing.

Premier Peter Malinauskas on Tuesday rejected suggestions the state government was implementing mask mandate by stealth.

“I think it is utterly appropriate that the chief public health officer in South Australia provides guidance to significant organisations,” he told reporters on Tuesday.

“We know that education institutions are places where there are a lot of young people in close proximity to each other, and it’s utterly appropriate that guidelines and recommendations are made.

“It’s up to those organisations to make their own decisions, but we are not actively considering reintroducing mask mandates… we place a high value on national consistency.”

It comes as SA Health “compliance officers” prepare to start handing out masks on public transport in a bid to boost uptake.

Masks remain mandatory in high-risk settings such as hospitals and other health care services, pharmacies, disability and aged care services, public transport, and on planes.

The decision to hand out free masks on public transport came after a meeting of the state’s Emergency Management Council on Tuesday.

Malinauskas said SA Health officers would have a general public transport focus rather than looking at any specific areas.

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“I wouldn’t describe it as a crackdown, I’d describe it as an effort to get compliance and education right,” he said.

“I don’t think now is the time for a draconian response from government, I think there are people who get on buses and trains who simply forget to bring a mask.

“There are going to be compliance teams going out talking to South Australian on public transport about the importance of mask-wearing.”

“Where individuals don’t have a mask, those compliance officers will have the ability to provide free masks if they deem it’s appropriate to do so.”

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