Treat virus masks like underwear: expert

Christine McGinn and Ulises Izquierdo
(Australian Associated Press)


Victorians are being urged to treat their face masks like underwear amid a mad dash for supplies.

Swinburne University of Technology dean of Health Science Bruce Thompson tells AAP that the same rules for undies should apply – have many and/or wash often.

“Assume your mask is like underwear. So don’t take it off in the middle of public. Don’t fiddle with it in the middle of public, don’t share them with somebody else,” Professor Thompson said on Monday.

“The concept of actually taking your underwear off in public and putting them on a kitchen bench is horrible – but that’s effectively what you are doing.”

He recommended having six to 12 masks ready for use on rotation, just as a person would with underwear.

“Masks are important and they are basically another tool in the armoury,” Prof Thompson said.

“The only way for the virus to actually spread is it has some form of human-to-human contact, either direct touching or via a droplet or something like that because someone is in very close proximity to them.”

The positive test rate in Victoria on any given day is about one per cent, which equates to three times the national average, he added.

The run on masks comes as authorities confirmed face coverings or masks would become mandatory in public across metropolitan Melbourne and the Mitchell Shire from midnight on Wednesday.

Although scarves and bandanas will be accepted as face coverings, the demand for surgical and reusable cloth masks spiked overnight.

Google data showed search interest for “face mask” grew to a new high this week, peaking sharply around midday on Sunday.

The interest value in Google shifted from zero early on Sunday morning to 100 by 2pm.

Volumes over the past seven days have been 63 per cent above the previous weekly peak in mid-March.

This online interest has translated into some shops running out of stock across Melbourne.

Retail store Chemist Warehouse said the demand for masks was unprecedented and “many stores ran out of the healthy stocks they had in place” on Sunday.

But the pharmacy chain said there was no need to rush, as more stock was to arrive in stores by mid-Monday.

Bunnings merchandise director Phil Bishop told AAP their stores were “well-stocked”.

But the hardware company has placed a limit of a pack of 50 face masks per customer to help ensure all customers have access to stock.



* Wash hands with soap or sanitise hands

* Put the mask on your nose first with the metal at the top

* Push around the edge of your nose, down side of cheek

* Grab the loops and put over your ears

* Do not touch your mask while it is on your face

* When taking it off, be careful not to touch the front of the mask. Place it in the bin. If reusable, wash or place in a plastic bag ready to wash when at home

* Wash hands with soap or sanitise hands



* “As soon as you put a mask on, you have made the inherent assumption that there is virus all over it. Therefore, when you take it off you will potentially infect your fingers and that can spread the virus. You need to sanitise or wash your hands before you put it on, as well as after you put it on.”

Source: Professor Bruce Thompson


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