A Port Macquarie-Hastings GP has broken ranks from many other health professionals in calling for an immediate commonsense and practical measure to combat COVID-19.
Dr Karen Counter is a GP of 36 years' experience and conducts the Port Smoker's Clinic.
Dr Counter has written to Premier Gladys Berejiklian urging a "rethink" on not advising the use of masks or any other form of face protection.
She said Australia needs to follow the lead of other countries that have successfully minimised the impacts of the coronavirus.
"Facial masks are considered essential for frontline health workers and for infected patients," she said.
"Obviously they stop droplet transmission - obviously they work.
"So why aren't they considered essential for the population?
"That's because we don't have enough for the important frontline health workers, let alone enough to also provide them to the less important people; everyone else.
"Secondly, one of our experts says that people "don't know how to use face masks properly", and so they are "potentially putting themselves at risk".
"As well "there is extremely limited data" that cloth masks can protect, so they "should be only used as a last resort".
"Where is their good evidence to support these claims?
"Another expert has recommended face masks not be used because COVID-19 is an "airborne" infection. Wrong; it's transmitted by droplets."
Dr Counter says she can provide references to support what she is saying.
"Desperate times call for desperate measures," she said. "So what's wrong with a scarf or bandana or even a piece of old sheet?"
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Dr Counter says a shortage of face masks in Seattle, USA has seen health workers having to use bandanas.
She says facial barriers should be a first resort and not overlooked until they become a last resort.
"Asian countries automatically use face coverings. They have proved their value; they have been proved to work over hundreds of years," she said.
Asian countries automatically use face coverings. They have proved their value; they have been proved to work over hundreds of years.Dr Karen Counter
"In Taiwan - a country with a comparable population to Australia, yet just 180km from China, has recorded at the last count some 252 cases and just two deaths in three months.
"Amongst 124 other special measures, they stopped the virus at its source; the mouth and nose.
"They had 44 million masks stockpiled by the end of January, and eventually were able to manufacture 10 million (masks) a day.
"They closed the schools for only two weeks because they were able to distribute 6.5 million masks to primary and high schools."
Dr Counter said it goes without saying - and now urgently needs to be said out loud - that in a droplet-spread, respiratory infection that a facial barrier is essential; it stops the droplets being blasted out into another's mouth, nose or eyes, or onto surfaces.
"At least the recipient's mouth and nose are protected. As well, they provide a barrier over people's mouth and nose that will also curtail self-inoculation."
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