President of the Rural Doctors Association of Australia, Dr John Hall, has said that while wearing a mask may not be compulsory, it was still a great way of keeping rural areas protected from the spread of COVID-19.

“Masks are still optional (in most places) everywhere except Victoria, but wearing a mask or face covering provides an extra layer of COVID safety on top of social distancing and hand washing,” Dr Hall said.

“Most country communities are still relatively COVID free and we want to keep them that way.

“So instead of waiting for things to get out of hand, now really is the best time to add in that extra layer of protection.

“Many people will have noticed most health services are now requiring masks to be worn on the premises and during their consultations.

“This is because we know that masks do help minimise the spread of the virus, and that it is helpful when you can’t socially distance” Dr Hall said.

“There are many, many situations in the community when you just can’t be sure about who you are coming in close contact with.

“Getting your hair cut?

“It’s a good idea to wear a mask.

“If you are in the supermarket? Mask.

“At the pub for a quick drink?

“Unless the glass is actually at your mouth – wear a mask.

“You may know these people really well or have known them for years, but right now, what you don’t know is if they may have been exposed to COVID and are not showing symptoms.

“We just want to see everyone as safe as possible, so we really do encourage people living in rural communities to get ahead of the curve on mask-wearing so we can keep our COVID numbers as low as possible.”

Rural Australians should also identify their ‘safety bubble’ in a COVID world – and protect it from popping by avoiding mixing with those outside it, or taking all the safety precautions if they have to.

“When you are in your family, household or friendship group, you don’t need to be protected,” Dr Hall said.

“If everyone in your ‘bubble’ makes sure that when they are mixing outside of the group they take all the usual COVID risk management strategies, your bubble can be kept safe.

“We also ask that everyone take added precautions when visiting elderly relatives, particularly those in residential aged care homes, by wearing a mask, hand sanitising regularly, and following all the instructions of staff.

“Remember though – social distancing trumps mask wearing every time, so limiting your travel and exposure to others will always be your best defence against this virus,” Dr Hall said.

“Washing or sanitising your hands thoroughly while out and about, and then again once you are home, is still one of the most critical things you can do to stay safe.

“And, as always, if you are showing even the mildest of cold or flu symptoms, you should get a COVID test immediately and self-isolate until the results are known.”

To order photos from this page click here