Andrew Dickens: Are masks really the answer to staying safe?

Author
Andrew Dickens,
Publish Date
Thu, 7 May 2020, 1:14PM
(Photo / AP)

Andrew Dickens: Are masks really the answer to staying safe?

Author
Andrew Dickens,
Publish Date
Thu, 7 May 2020, 1:14PM

As many of you will know I moved to a new house and new suburb just a couple of weeks before lockdown.

We sold our house last year and over summer we found a 3 bedroom apartment so this was the big downsize.  Of course, it didn’t work because all the kids promptly moved home for lockdown so it’s a snug downsized family home.

So over the past few weeks, I have revealed that I now live in the Auckland suburb of Devonport.  For those who don’t know the city, Devonport a small suburb at the south end of the North Shores.  There’s one road in and out called Lake Road.

It’s a pretty beachside suburb with five beaches within one kilometre.  It’s got the navy base which is always full of action.  It’s got two volcanic mountains which my dog loves walking up. 

It’s a lovely place to be locked down in. 

But it’s also fair to say everybody is a bit dismissive of Devonport because it’s just a little too pretty and twee and shall we say bourgeois.  It’s also very white with nearly 93% of the population of European descent, which is the highest figure in the nation.

Now I didn’t move there to be bourgeois and beachy in a white enclave. I moved there because I never want to be stuck in traffic in Auckland getting to work. Which meant finding a place to live on an efficient public transport route.

Devonport has a ferry.  In 11 minutes you’re in Auckland’s CBD. So it’s like an inner-city apartment which magically is not in the city.

But at the moment the ferries run very rarely and mostly completely empty.  I’m not using them because the motorways are empty and the drive to work is a breeze.

But come Level 2 and 1 as we return to a new normal and the roads jam up again the question arises on how I’m going to feel safe.

Professor Michael Baker, the University of Otago epidemiologist says "mass masking" should be part of New Zealand's fight against Covid-19 as the country moves to alert level 2 making social distancing more difficult.

Particularly is you’re in crowds such as on public transport, or in CBDs, or malls, or bars when they open. He reckons you could use homemade fabric masks.

New Zealand could look to Asian countries, including Taiwan, which had used masks as part of successful efforts to contain the virus.

Currently, Dr Bloomfield says in higher-risk environments, such as public transport, people may wish to wear a mask, but they will not be compelled to.

I’m not a fan of masks particularly when you see people wearing them all day and in safe environments.  You wonder about the efficacy of that.  I do believe it’s good to stop people spreading droplets and bugs, but if you’re sick how about just not going out at all.

But if next week I’m back on the ferry my question will be should I wear one just in case.  If not for me but to make my fellow passengers feel safe.

And of course, for all those people thinking of using masks when they go to cafes, I ask this: have you considered how on earth you’re going to drink or eat anything with a mask on?  

There was a notable story this week about a woman who had cut a hole in her mask to fit a straw. I wish I was joking.