DOCTOR: Masks are fine, but part of solution
DR BRETT Lynam said he's been in surgery for long periods under a mask when he was a surgical assistant, and has had no ill-effects from their use.
As the recommendation for mask-use as a prevention ramps up by the NSW Government, Dr Lynam said it is an effective strategy to put in place - but it's not the only one which needed to happen.
Dr Lynam is the GP clinical Adviser for the North Coast Primary Health Network, as well as working as a GP in Tweed Heads, and said there was a clear difference between the situation now and in the first round of cases in March.
"Initially the community transmission was low, so the benefit was less obvious," he said.
"There's no question now, that if you're in an area with high community transmission there was significant benefit in wearing a mask.
"I think if you're unable to maintain physical distancing, whether it's on public transport or other areas, or someone who has significant medical condition, I think there's a significant benefit as well."
Dr Lynam said the benefit was that for an asymptomatic carrier, they may well be spreading the virus unwittingly, and the mask would provide a reduction in the spread.
"We're talking surgical masks here which will do the job perfectly adequately for short term use," he said.
"Health workers with N95, or P2 masks can wear them longer."
Dr Lynam repeated health advice stating that anyone who was unwell shouldn't be going out, and contacting their GP by phone - and anyone with respiratory issues getting checked and isolated while waiting.
"That's just common sense," he said.
Despite the mandate for masks in Victoria, and the recommendation by health authorities for people to use them in public, Dr Lynam said he believed it was only part of a strategy in suppressing the virus.
"You want people to wash their hands property, and avoid touching their eyes, and anything else," he said.
"Objects like mobile phones, keys, wallets and work passes are great media for carrying COVID and people should be cleaning them.
"Physical distancing, hand washing and masks in combination are what we should be doing - it's not just masks."
Dr Lynam said since March there had been a paradigm shift on how we approached cleanliness, and said the move to masks was another shift.
"It doesn't make it bullet proof, if you've got dirty hands it won't help," he said.
"But now a large percentage of population is used to using the hand gel, and if community transmission becomes more prevalent - and hopefully it won't - it'll be another step to adapt to."
Dr Lynam said the masks needed to be worn properly, not under the chin or with your nose exposed.
"The mask covers your nose and mouth, fits snugly under your chin and is firm at the sides," he said.
"There's even a wire tab over the bridge of the nose which needs to be crimped - it stops the airflow, and also means your glasses won't fog up.
"Mostly importantly, and it's a learned habit, you mustn't touch the mask while you're wearing it - take it off from the side."
Dr Lynam said while it could feel a bit constricting at first, to be effective it had to be a proper fit.
"It is an adaptation, but I think we're looking at personal health and the greater good," he said.
"It's not only beneficial to stop the spread, but will also reduce your risk of contracting it."