16 June 2021

Liam Mannix: “A confession: before COVID-19, I found it strange to see someone wearing a mask on Melbourne’s streets. It seemed like a symbol of fear in a peaceful place. It seemed … well, it seemed unnecessary. During the past 18 months, I have come to believe the mask-wearers were right, and I was both wrong and ignorant. … I’m not convinced the evidence supports wearing a mask outside to avoid COVID in a low prevalence situation — like Melbourne is currently in. But I do think we need to embrace a culture where face masks are worn by people who have cold and flu symptoms, to stop viruses from being passed on. Even better, we could wear masks when visiting hospitals and aged-care homes, to help protect the most vulnerable members of our community. … Consider our casual disregard for lives lost to the flu each year. Influenza and pneumonia killed 1790 people in Australia in 2009. In 2013, it was 2497 people and 3102 in 2018 — making it the 12th-most-likely cause of death in Australia in 2018 (!!!). Australia has not recorded a single death from influenza since July last year. Part of this, as my colleague Aisha Dow has reported, is because our borders are closed. But part of it, Professor MacIntyre says, is the infection-control measures we have added to our lives. Like masks.”