Huge boom in Aussies wearing masks
The number of Australians who report wearing face masks has quadrupled in just six weeks, new survey figures show.
Weekly polling by the Australian financial services app Humaniti reveals 5 per cent of respondents back in early March said they had worn a face mask to help stop the spread of coronavirus, but that proportion had jumped to 21 per cent now.
The Australian Bureau of Statistics put the proportion of Australians wearing masks now at 17 per cent.
The Humaniti poll, which regularly attracts about 900 respondents, also showed Australians are taking handwashing much more seriously than they were before the virus hit our shores, although a recent dip has doctors worried about complacency setting in.
Around March 6, just 39 per cent of respondents to the Humaniti poll reported more regular washing of hands. That number spiked at 83 per cent around March 27, but had fallen back to 75 per cent in the most recent poll.
Dr Harry Nespolon, President of the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners, said "the slight recent decline is concerning and we can't afford to be complacent".
"Washing your hands really is a game-changer in keeping this virus at bay and protecting those vulnerable groups such as immune-compromised patients and older people," he said.
A group of doctors in the UK last week called for the wearing of face masks to be encouraged among the general public, but in Australia they have proved more contentious.
Chief Medical Officer Brendan Murphy told ABC last month he was "very opposed to people wearing them in the general community" and respondents to an online News Corp poll last week were divided on the issue.
Asked whether the Australian public should be encouraged to don masks, 56 per cent of the more than 1000 respondents said they should. Thirty-four per cent said the face masks should be reserved for health professionals, while a further 10 per cent were undecided.
Dr Nespolon said healthy members of the general public did not need surgical masks.
"We desperately need to keep these masks available for our hardworking healthcare workers on the frontline of the pandemic," he said. "So although it is great news that people are taking this seriously, it's best just to wash your hands as often as possible, follow the social distancing requirements and only leave home if you have to."
Chemist Warehouse director Mario Tascone told News Corp although masks supplies had been intermittent since the bushfires, new stock would be available online and in stores later this week.
"Nationally we will have good stocks of 10 packs selling for $12.99, and 50 packs for $59.99 They are all TGA certified Surgical Level 2 masks, which is what people should be looking out for," he said.
A spokesperson for TerryWhite Chemmart said they were also expecting new supplies of face masks in coming weeks, at an expected RRP of $2.95.
Originally published as Huge boom in Aussies wearing masks