An Epidemiologist Has Roasted NSW Govt’s Mask Roll-Back As COVID Cases Hit Over 2,500 Again

Leading epidemiologist Professor Nancy Baxter has spoken out against the NSW government’s decision to walk back mask rules just as COVID-19 cases spiked in the state.

Appearing on the Project, Baxter said the decision was not based on scientific evidence and made no sense in the face of a fourth wave.

“I don’t know anywhere else in the world that has relaxed mask mandates in the face of Omicron. It doesn’t make any sense at all, and most jurisdictions have been increasing mask mandates,” she said.

“You have Queensland that has, what, 20 cases today, introducing a mask mandate. Compared to NSW that relaxes theirs when their cases go from 200 to 2000 in 10 days. It doesn’t make any sense and it’s not based on any scientific evidence, that’s for sure.”

Premier Dominic Perrottet announced the easing of restrictions on December 15 when NSW recorded 1738 new cases, a massive jump on the 1300 the day before.

Today, NSW has recorded a new recorded of 2,501 cases overnight — the first time it’s dipped this week, down from 2,566 yesterday.

Last week, Chief Health Officer Dr Kerry Chant also panned Perrottet for easing restrictions and rules for masks contrary to her advice.

“That’s a matter for government in setting those mandates and all I’m saying is from a public health position, I am strongly recommending we keep masks and I’m asking the community to do so,” Dr Chant said at a press conference.

Dr Chant strongly encouraged everyone to keep wearing their masks as cases continue to climb after a couple of super spreader events in Sydney and Newcastle.

Baxter said that masks, when worn correctly (yes, that means it goes OVER your nose), were effective and that we need, quite literally, “multiple layers of protection” against Omicron.

She also said that the silly season presents a lot of risks and that people should be more selective about the events they attend.

“The problem is a lot of this is spreading in events like parties where people are unlikely to be wearing masks. There’s only so much masks can do if people aren’t wearing them,” she said.

“There is a lot of COVID around right now, particularly in NSW and Victoria. Rethinking some of the events you go to, so that maybe you can preserve Christmas and not have a super spreader event at your home — these are the things people need to start considering right now.”

NSW is also now considering bringing the timeline for COVID booster vaccines forward to four months from your last dose, down from five months. 

According to the World Health Organisation, scientists are still yet to determine Omicron’s transmissibility or severity of disease it causes, but preliminary reports show it could be more transmissible than any other variant.

Last week NSW’s Health Minister Brad Hazzard said NSW could soon expect to have a virus reproductive rate of more than 1.5, which would see numbers doubling every couple of days to peak at around 25,000 cases per day in January.

Numbers seem to have chilled out a bit over the weekend, in that they’re high, but steady, possibly because everyone got spooked and stayed inside. We can only hope.