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MASKS AND MANDATES - WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW!

Updated: Feb 9, 2022

The follwing informaiton is according to the World Health Organisaiton:


1. SHOULD CHILDREN WEAR A MASK?

An international and multidisciplinary expert group brought together by WHO reviewed evidence on COVID-19 disease and transmission in children and the limited available evidence on the use of masks by children.

Based on this and other factors such as childrens’ psychosocial needs and developmental milestones, WHO and UNICEF advise the following:

Children aged 5 years and under should not be required to wear masks. This is based on the safety and overall interest of the child and the capacity to appropriately use a mask with minimal assistance.

WHO and UNICEF advise that the decision to use masks for children aged 6-11 should be based on the following factors:

  • Whether there is widespread transmission in the area where the child resides

  • The ability of the child to safely and appropriately use a mask

  • Access to masks, as well as laundering and replacement of masks in certain settings (such as schools and childcare services)

  • Adequate adult supervision and instructions to the child on how to put on, take off and safely wear masks

  • Potential impact of wearing a mask on learning and psychosocial development, in consultation with teachers, parents/caregivers and/or medical providers

  • Specific settings and interactions the child has with other people who are at high risk of developing serious illness, such as the elderly and those with other underlying health conditions

WHO and UNICEF advise that children aged 12 and over should wear a mask under the same conditions as adults, in particular when they cannot guarantee at least a 1-metre distance from others and there is widespread transmission in the area.




2. HOW TO WEAR A MASK

Here are the basics of how to wear a mask:

  • Clean your hands before you put your mask on, as well as before and after you take it off, and after you touch it at any time.

  • Make sure it covers both your nose, mouth and chin.

  • When you take off a mask, store it in a clean plastic bag, and every day either wash it if it’s a fabric mask, or dispose of a medical mask in a trash bin.

  • Don’t use masks with valves.

For specifics on what type of mask to wear and when, see our Q&A and watch our videos. There is also a Q&A focused on masks and children. Take a 1-hour WHO course that tells you when, where and how to wear a mask in community settings. Find out more about the science of how COVID-19 infects people, and our bodies react, by watching or reading this interview.

For specific advice for decision makers, see WHO’s technical guidance.



3. WEARING A MASK WHILE EXERCISING

Even when you’re in an area of COVID-19 transmission, masks should not be worn during vigorous physical activity because of the risk of reducing your breathing capacity. No matter how intensely you exercise, keep at least 1 metre away from others, and if you’re indoors, make sure there is adequate ventilation.



4. WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN MEDICAL MASKS AND RESPIRATORS?

Medical masks (also known as surgical masks) are:

  • composed of 3 layers of synthetic nonwoven materials

  • configured to have filtration layers sandwiched in the middle

  • available in different thicknesses

  • have various levels of fluid-resistance and filtration

Respirators (also known as filtering facepiece respirators – FFP) are available at different performance levels such as FFP2, FFP3, N95, N99, N100.

Medical masks and respirator masks are similar in their filtration value. However, respirators also have a tight fit around the wearer face as the model and size of the respirator is specific to the wearer to ensure an adequate seal. Respirator masks are designed to protect health workers who provide care to COVID-19 patients in settings and areas where aerosol generating procedures are undertaken. They are also recommended for health workers providing care to suspected or confirmed COVID-19 patients in settings where ventilation is known to be poor or cannot be assessed or the ventilation system is not properly maintained.

Health workers should be fit tested before using a respirator to ensure that they are wearing the correct size. Wearing a loose-fitting respirator will not offer the same level of protection to the wearer as it may allow small particles to get inside the mask where there are gaps, for example through the side.


5. WHO recommendations on mask use by health workers, in light of the Omicron variant of concern - Interim Guidelines 22 December 2021

This document provides updated interim recommendations on the use of masks by health workers providing care to patients with suspected or confirmed COVID-19, in light of the rapid spread of the Omicron variant of concern of SARS-CoV-2. These interim guidelines supersede the recommendations provided in the Annex to Infection prevention and control during health care when COVID-19 is suspected or confirmed published on 1 October 2021. WHO continually evaluates the emerging evidence and will review these interim recommendations and issues new guidance as needed.

WHO-2019-nCoV-IPC_Masks-Health_Workers-Omicron_variant-2021.1-eng
.pdf
Download PDF • 267KB

6. HEALTH WORKERS FURTHER RESOURCES FROM WHO


Healthcare workers can complete the OpenWHO course on how to put on and remove personal protective equipment.


COVID-19 Infection Prevention and Control Living Guideline- Mask use in Community Settings - WHO Interim Guidelines 22 December 2021


WHO-2019-nCoV-IPC_masks-2021.1-eng
.pdf
Download PDF • 1.38MB

WHO's Infection prevention and control during health care when coronavirus disease (COVID-19) is suspected or confirmed - Interim Guidance 12 July 2021

WHO-2019-nCoV-IPC-2021.1-eng
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Download PDF • 573KB

Mask use in the context of COVID-19Interim Guidance 1 December 2020

WHO-2019-nCov-IPC_Masks-2020.5-eng
.pdf
Download PDF • 597KB

The following information is according to the Western Australian Government


7. THE WESTERN AUSTRALIAN HEALTH DEPARTMENT HAS DECLARED THE FOLLOWING ....

Mask wearing is required in indoor settings in the Perth, Peel, South West, Wheatbelt and Great Southern regions. This also applies to anyone who has been in these regions and has since travelled to another region - visit WA.gov.au for updates.

Wearing a face mask is mandatory in Western Australia while:

  • at an airport

  • travelling on aircraft

  • transporting a person subject to a quarantine direction (e.g. in a personal vehicle, private car, hired car, ride-share vehicle or taxi)

Airports and air travel can present an increased risk of COVID-19 transmission, and wearing face masks is effective in helping to prevent this.

Where a person, subject to a quarantine direction, needs to engage in transport services, all people in the vehicle (including the driver) are required to wear a face mask. This includes private, hired, taxi and rideshare vehicles that may be used to travel from the airport to their suitable premises for self-quarantine, or from their place of self-quarantine to a COVID Clinic to present for their Day 11 COVID-19 test.

Children under the age of 12 years do not need to wear a face mask.

People who have a physical or mental illness, condition or disability which makes wearing a face mask unsuitable are also exempt from the requirement. You may wish to ask your registered health practitioner or disability care provider to issue a letter confirming this. Penalties may apply for people who fail to comply with this requirement.

Other COVID safe protective measures, such as hand hygiene, staying home when unwell and physical distancing remain essential measures even when you are wearing a mask.

8. WEARING AND REMOVING MASKS CORRECTLY

Surgical Masks

  • To safely remove any type of face mask practise hand hygiene, remove the mask and then perform hand hygiene again.

  • Single use masks must be placed into a rubbish bin at the point of removal.

  • If a rubbish bin is not immediately available, the mask must be taken to the nearest rubbish bin in a safe manner to ensure the used mask cannot contaminate other items/belongings or people. This may need to be done in a bag such as a labelled resealable bag which can then be disposed of at the nearest rubbish bin.

  • Avoid placing used surgical masks in cars, pockets and directly into handbags/backpacks/luggage as used masks may pose a risk of contamination to other items/belongings and people.

  • Always practise hand hygiene after handling used masks and other items of rubbish.

Fabric Masks

  • To safely remove any type of face mask practise hand hygiene, remove the mask and then perform hand hygiene again.

  • Fabric masks that are reusable, should be washed after every use, or when wet or visibly dirty.

  • After removing the fabric mask it should be stored in a safe manner until the wearer can wash it. Labelled resealable bags or lidded plastic containers that can also be cleaned after each use are an appropriate way to transport used fabric masks.

  • Avoid placing used fabric masks in cars, pockets and directly into handbags/backpacks/luggage as used masks may pose a risk of contamination to other items/belongings and people.

  • At the earliest opportunity wash with the fabric mask with laundry detergent on the hottest setting (preferably at least 60 degrees Celsius). Avoid using disinfectants to clean the mask because they may produce fumes that are harmful to inhale.

  • If you are unable to machine wash, wash in hot water with a laundry detergent then rinse thoroughly.

  • Make sure your fabric mask is dry before re-using.

  • Store clean dry masks in a labelled resealable bag to protect from contamination.

  • Always practise hand hygiene after handling used masks and other items of rubbish.

HOW TO PUT ON A FACE MASK WA STATE INFO SHEET

COVID19-How-to-put-on-a-face-mask-2
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Download PDF • 969KB

REUSABLE FABRIC MASKS WA INFO SHEET

COVID19-Reusable-fabric-masks-buying-making-guide
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Download PDF • 1.71MB

9. THE FACE COVERING DIRECTIONS UNDER THE EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT ACT 2005 (WA) Section 72A

The WA Face Covering Directions issued by the WA State Government, which came into effect at 6:0Opm on 31 January 2021, takes the authority of the World Health Organization and its powers in declaring a COVID-19 a pandemic on 11 March 2020 as a source of authority.


As is the Emergency Management Act 2005 WA, particularly section 56, which states that:

"(1) The Minister may, in writing, declare that a state of emergency exists in the whole or in any area or areas of the State.

(2) The Minister must not make a declaration under this section unless the Minister

(a) has considered the advice of the State Emergency Coordinator; and

(b) is satisfied that an emergency has occurred, is occurring or is imminent; and

(c) is satisfied that extraordinary measures are required to prevent or minimise —

(i) loss of life, prejudice to the safety, or harm to the health, of persons or animals; or

(ii) destruction of, or damage to, property; or

(iii) destruction of, or damage to, any part of the environment.

(3) A declaration under this section is to include —

(a) the time when, and date on which, the declaration is made; and

(b) the area of the State to which it applies.

(4) The making of a state of emergency declaration does not prevent the making of further state of emergency declarations in relation to the same or a different emergency."

(emphasis added)

The legal test of proportionality and reasonableness both apply in this section in the first instance, required to be satisfied by the Minister, prior to making any declarations of an emergency.


Christopher John Dawson, Commissioner of Police and State Emergency Coordinator has signed off on these specific directions, pursuant to his powers, defining "relevant information" under section 72A of the Act as:

(a) relevant information as defined in section 72(1); and

(b) information of a kind specified by the State Emergency Coordinator as relevant to the emergency.

(2) For the purposes of emergency management during an emergency situation or state of emergency, a hazard management officer or authorised officer may take, or direct a person or a class of person to take, any action that the officer considers is reasonably necessary to prevent, control or abate risks associated with the emergency.

(3) For the purposes of emergency management during an emergency situation or state of emergency, a hazard management officer or authorised officer may direct a person to —

(a) give to the officer relevant information about the person or any other person closely associated with the person; or

(b) answer questions intended to elicit relevant information about the person or any other person closely associated with the person.

(4) A person is not excused from complying with a direction given to the person under subsection (3) on the ground that giving the information or answering the question might tend to incriminate the person or expose the person to a criminal penalty.

(5) However, any information or answer given by a person in compliance with a direction given to the person under subsection (3) is not admissible in evidence in any criminal proceedings against the person other than proceedings for an offence under section 89."


The direction states: "A person in an affected area must wear a face covering at all times while they are outside the place where they ordinarily reside including while in a vehicle unless:

(a) the person is a child under the age of 12 years; or

(b) the person has a physical or mental illness, condition or disability which makes wearing a face covering unsuitable; or

(c) the person is a prisoner or detainee in a prison, detention centre or other place ofcustody; or

(d) the person falls within one or more of the exceptions specified in paragraph 4 and is carrying a face covering (or, in the case ofparagraph 4(d), the person has access to a facemask close by) and resumes wearing the face mask as soon asreasonably practicable.


Exempt persons include:

- the person is disabled and may need to lip-read;

- the person's job requires clear enunciation or visibility of the mouth as essential; - the person's work means that wearing a face covering creates a risk to their health and safety;

- the person is swimming;

- the person is travelling in a private vehicle alone; - the person is consuming food, drink or medicine and seated; - the person is undergoing medical care or treatment which requires that no face covering be worn; - the person is asked to remove the face covering to ascertain identity; - where not wearing a face covering is required for emergency purposes; - not wearing a face covering is otherwise required or authorised by law; and

- wearing a face covering is not safe in all the circumstances.


10. PENALTIES It may be an offence to fail to comply with any of these directions, punishable by a fine of up to $50,000 for individuals and $250,000 for bodies corporate.


THE FACE COVERING DIRECTIONS UNDER THE EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT ACT 2005 (WA) Section 72A here:


Face Covering Directions - 31 January 2021
.pdf
Download PDF • 534KB


11. FEDERAL ANTI DISCRIMINAITON STANDARDS


Mask-wearing requirements are subject to state and territory public health orders.

At various times during the COVID-19 pandemic, state and territory governments in Australia have made it a requirement for people to wear a face mask in certain settings. The different rules and exemptions around face masks are set out in the relevant state and territory public health orders.


The latest mask-wearing requirements can be found on the appropriate state and territory government websites, which you can access by following the links below:

The current state and territory public health orders provide that if you have a medical condition or a disability that requires you to keep your face uncovered, this is a lawful exemption to having to wear a face mask.

Further detail about lawful exemptions can be found on the appropriate state and territory government websites listed above.

Some state and territory equal opportunity and anti-discrimination agencies have also produced detailed guidance about mask-wearing requirements in their jurisdictions and how they relate to state and territory discrimination law. These include:

If you are treated unfairly because you are unable to wear a mask due to a medical condition or a disability, the federal Disability Discrimination Act 1992 (Cth) (DDA) may also apply.

The Disability Discrimination Act 1992 (Cth) (DDA) prohibits discrimination against people with a medical condition or a disability in the area of goods, services and facilities.

A strict rule that prevents all people without face masks from accessing shops or services, even people who are lawfully exempt from public health orders and cannot wear masks for medical reasons, is likely to engage the ‘indirect discrimination’ provisions in the DDA.


In broad terms, indirect discrimination occurs when a person is required to comply with a general condition or requirement (such as mandatory mask-wearing), and they are unable to do so because of their medical condition or disability and it has the effect of disadvantaging them.


12. THE DUTY TO PROVIDE 'REASONABLE ADJUSTMENTS'

The DDA also requires businesses involved in the provision of goods and services to make ‘reasonable adjustments’ for people with disability. ‘Reasonable adjustments’ are all adjustments that do not impose an unjustifiable hardship on the business making the adjustments.


Unjustifiable hardship is a high test, and it recognises that some hardship on businesses and employers may be needed and justifiable to reduce discrimination against people with disability.


Depending on the circumstances of the case, a ‘reasonable adjustment’ may include allowing customers with disabilities to be in a shop without a face mask, if they have a lawful reason for not wearing a face mask.


In certain cases, it may not be possible to allow unmasked people with a medical condition or disability to enter a premise alongside other people. In those cases, a ‘reasonable adjustment’, may include providing the goods or services in a different manner, for example:

  • setting specific trading hours during which people can attend the store without a mask

  • making provisions for the delivery of goods

  • travelling to a customer to provide particularly essential service.

13. EXEMPTIONS UNDER THE DISABILITY DISCRIMINATION ACT

In responding to a claim of disability discrimination, a provider of goods or services may seek to rely upon exemptions in the DDA to argue that any discrimination resulting from a strict mask-wearing condition was lawful. This may include the ‘infectious diseases’ exemption in s 48 of the DDA.


This provides that it is not unlawful to discriminate against a person if their disability is an infectious disease — or arguably the potential to acquire an infectious disease — and such discrimination is ‘reasonably necessary’ to protect public health.


In considering the term ‘reasonably necessary’, it is not likely to be sufficient that a discriminatory condition or policy is merely helpful, desirable or convenient in protecting public health.


14. PROVIDING MEDICAL EXEMPTION PROOF

Please check the appropriate state and territory government websites listed above for the latest information about mask-wearing and what is required to prove you have a lawful reason for not wearing a face mask.


It is not unlawful under the DDA for a person, such as an employer or a service provider, to request or require another person to provide information about a medical condition if the person making the request can demonstrate that it is not in connection with, or for the purpose of, unlawfully discriminating against the other person on the ground of disability.

However, the collection of personal information is also regulated by privacy laws. Any requirement for individuals to provide evidence of a medical reason for refusing to wear a mask must be made in compliance with those laws. 


Information about Australia’s federal privacy laws can be found on the website of the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner (OAIC).



15. AM I REQUIRED TO WEAR A MASK AT WORK?

The Fair Work Ombudsman and Safe Work Australia have also provided specific guidance about workplace rights and obligations in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic under employment law and work health and safety law.


The Disability Discrimination Act 1992 (Cth) (DDA) prohibits discrimination against people with a medical condition or a disability in the area of employment.


A strict rule that requires all workers to wear masks at work, including people who are lawfully exempt and cannot wear masks for medical reasons, is likely to engage the ‘indirect discrimination’ provisions in the DDA. In broad terms, indirect discrimination occurs when a person is required to comply with a general condition or requirement (such as mandatory mask-wearing), and they are unable to do so because of their medical condition or disability and it has the effect of disadvantaging them.


The DDA also requires employers to make ‘reasonable adjustments’ for people with disability. Depending on the circumstances of the case, a ‘reasonable adjustment’ may include exempting workers with disabilities, who have a lawful reason for not wearing a face mask, from a general rule that requires mask-wearing at work.

Employers are not required to make adjustments for people with disability if the adjustments would impose an unjustifiable hardship on them. Unjustifiable hardship is a high test, and it recognises that some hardship on businesses and employers may be needed and justifiable to reduce discrimination against people with disability.


16. WHAT TO DO IF YOU ARE REFUSED ACCESS OR SERVICE

If you are refused access or service and want to make a discrimination complaint against a shop owner or service provider under the DDA, you will need to show that there is a clear link between your medical condition or disability and your inability to wear a face mask.


Note: If you are not sure about whether you have a sufficiently clear link or a lawful excuse, it is best to seek advice from your medical practitioner.


If you do not have a medical condition or disability that affects your ability to wear a face mask and are refused entry or service by a shop owner or service provider because you are not wearing a mask, the refusal of entry or service will not be disability discrimination.


 

If you need assistance with preparing your affidavit or other documents, with human rights advocacy, or business consulting, or Fair Work Conciliation, please make a booking here on our website, and receive knowledgeable, compassionate, professional support from a trained international human rights legal advocate!


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