The Australian Medical Association has urged cricket fans to stay home and watch the third Test action from the Sydney Cricket Ground on television.
The recommendation comes in the wake of the NSW government’s backflip on mandating masks in the Sydney area, which will see all 24,000 Test spectators don masks or face $200 fines.
The mask initiative was immediately applauded by peak bodies, which had been calling for the change since the first COVID-19 outbreak.
“This is an important decision, and an acknowledgment that wearing face masks is one of our simplest weapons against the spread of coronavirus,” AMA President Dr Omar Khorshid said in a statement.
Premier Gladys Berejiklian on Saturday said the reversal in health policy balanced the risk and security to citizens while keeping businesses open.
“What we want to do is make sure we’re not in a situation where we are restricting people’s ability to go about their business,” Ms Berejiklian said on Saturday.
“In fact, we want to increase economic activity, not diminish economic activity, and mask-wearing in these settings will ensure we have the confidence to do that.”
The mandatory masks mandate applies to 'Greater Sydney (including Wollongong, Central Coast and Blue Mountains.' See https://t.co/ntlqi5nSe7
— COVID19 NSW (@Covid19NSW) January 2, 2021
Opposition Leader Jodi McKay has been calling for face masks on public transport since June, saying the premier “had no choice” after strong support from epidemiologists, frontline workers, doctors and health officials.
“I just wish the Premier hadn’t needed to be dragged kicking and screaming into making this decision, it is the right decision,” Ms McKay said on Saturday.
“It’s about keeping the economy open, and it’s about keeping people in jobs, it’s about managing risk, and the Premier should have implemented this some time ago, but we welcome the fact that she’s now proceeded down this path.”
Victoria moved swiftly to reinstate mask requirements at all indoor venues a day after its first three coronavirus cases were detected following 60 virus-free days.
The AMA had also come out in force against the state government’s earlier refusal to budge on the issue, saying it was an effective solution for preventing community transmission.
The AMA has been calling for compulsory face masks since the first outbreak of COVID-19 was reported in 2020, and encouraged the premier to reconsider allowing crowds at the upcoming Australia-India Test match to be played at the Sydney Cricket Ground.
NSW AMA President Dr Danielle McMullen said mandatory masks was a crucial decision given more people would soon be returning to work, increasing numbers on public transport.
“Masks create an effective barrier against aerosol droplets which transmit the disease,” Ms McMullen said.
From midnight on Saturday, masks will be mandatory in shopping centres, on public transport, in places of worship, hair and beauty premises and entertainment venues such as cinemas in Greater Sydney areas – defined as including Wollongong, Central Coast and the Blue Mountains.
All hospitality staff are also required to wear one, with anyone disobeying the health order to be fined $200 from Monday.