Victorians could be forced to wear face masks permanently on public transport and in cinemas, according to an epidemiologist.

Deakin University chair of epidemiology Dr Catherine Bennett said masks "continue to have a place" in the two settings and believed there could be an argument to extend face coverings beyond the COVID-19 pandemic.

"Beyond COVID there may yet be an argument to wear masks on public transport," she told 3AW on Monday morning.

"Maybe they're here to stay, and I don't think that's a bad legacy. I think we are still being extra cautious, but that's not a bad thing.

"We do have to think about how we maintain a level of protection so that if suddenly we are exposed to the virus, if someone brings it into the state, then we are in a position to limit the amount of infection that might occur."

Dr Bennett said a huge decrease in cases of the common head cold this winter meant face masks were serving a purpose other than protection against COVID-19.

She also urged Victorians to "think carefully" about how they stored masks, particularly now people would be "carrying them more than wearing them"

Deakin University chair of epidemiology Catherine Bennett says face masks could remain beyond the coronavirus pandemic.
Deakin University chair of epidemiology Catherine Bennett says face masks could remain beyond the coronavirus pandemic.

 

She encouraged masks be sealed in a plastic or paper bag so they are kept clean and dry.

Upon easing more restrictions on Sunday Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews said masks had been an important insurance policy to protect against the spread of coronavirus.

He said masks must be carried by everyone at all times and worn in indoor shopping centres, supermarkets and department stores.

"Large, big crowds, people you don't know, not everybody has QR coded in. So there's a need or a requirement to wear a mask in those settings," he said.

Masks are also required in taxis and ride share vehicles and on public transport.

He said in other settings masks would continue to be strongly recommended, both indoors and outdoors where social distancing of 1.5 metres could not be maintained.

But people will no longer have to wear masks in the office. They may make a personal choice to do so or if there are about social distancing.

Originally published as Places where face masks 'here to stay'


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