Why Shouldn't We Be Wearing Masks?

The official advice regarding masks seems to be don't need it unless you're sick.

I mean the first problem with this statement is that you don't actually know that you're sick. Then if you look at China and Korea and Hong Kong and all these countries that seem to be doing a good job at containing this virus, every single person is wearing a mask. Not just people on the street but politicians, reports, scientists and doctors etc.

Are they wrong? Are they all just overly paranoid? Do we have a right to judge when they've managed to contain this virus?

Are the advice to not wear masks just because there is a shortage of masks and that if there wasn't a shortage we should all wear one? If this is true, is that not absolutely crazy? The Chinese were able to supply masks for every one of their 1 billion+ ppl and we've had 4 months and not been able to find 30 million masks for our population?


  • +21 votes

    Grabs mask and handwash….

      • +32 votes

        There have been studies showing wearing a mask can reduce the chance of catching and spreading the flu. Somewhere in the region of 4x-5x at prevention, when used properly.

        I'd say that's pretty significant. The WHO basically lied to the world when they said a mask won't help. They did so because of the shortage for hospital staff that need the masks more than anyone.

        • +14 votes

          why would anyone believe WHO at this point, they just took China's word and said there is no evidence it will transmit in the community

          • +4 votes

            @yannyrjl: That is so not true. The whole purpose of a city level lockdown is to prevent the spread of the disease and it happened in January when the Chinese locked down Wuhan. It is the Australian government keeps saying there is no indication of community transmission until it is too late. Australia is among the first few countries stopped Chinese from entering into the country and it definitely worked.

            WHO never lied about community transmission.

            I quote below from The Guardian as of 27/02/2020

            Link: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/feb/21/explainer-how-...

            “The only new COVID-19 detections in Australia in the last two weeks are eight cases in Australian passengers repatriated from the Diamond Princess cruise ship,” the AHPPC said in a statement issued on Friday. “There remains no evidence of community transmission in Australia, with thousands of negative tests for COVID-19 in the last week alone. the risk to the Australian community from travellers from mainland China appears to have reduced significantly since the inception of travel restrictions. This could justify some further easing of travel restrictions.”

            • -1 vote

              @allenhori: https://townhall.com/tipsheet/katiepavlich/2020/03/20/the-wo...

              Don't restrict your news to only CCP friendly sources, I'm not sure if you are aware to say the Guardian is left leaning is probably an understatement. Just look at their reporting on the Hong Kong Protests.

              I really can't trust the news source so you can then go and try to trace back to the original WHO tweets, if they haven't been taken down already.

              Found it

              • +4 votes

                @yannyrjl: I’m trying to avoid negs and having a healthy discussion here, to be clear: I totally agree what the CCP did to those 7 doctors was unfair and it subsequently caused the breakout in Wuhan.

                But you are comparing a mid-Jan WHO twitter post with a late Feb Australian news. Forget about if the Chinese tried to cover the truth or not back then and if WHO just copy/pasted what they were told. The news was posted at the end of Feb, it is more than clear to anyone the disease will spread fast and becoming out of control if we do nothing. Tens of thousands of people were infected in China. No evidence of community transmission in Australia doesn’t mean it won’t happen. And what the government did was completely ignored the fact and didn’t do much other than stopping people from a few selected countries from entering into the country. I didn’t quote The Guardian on purpose it is merely a report of what the Australia official said.

                Look at the situation in China now, their country-wide lockdown + enforcing masks worked and when did WHO said anything about masks won’t work in Feb? It never said anything about masks won’t work.

                Wuhan is about to come out of the lockdown now. I don’t want to go down the human rights path just the fact people get to live is the first priority. If they have a problem with CCP, at least they can now live to fight.

                HK is a totally different story. As far as I know I don’t want the CCP point their fingers to how TAS/ACT should operate and if the Brits returned HK to China in 1997, it is theirs. They have the ultimate right to decide what is “the best” for their land. I don’t know what the full story was in HK but I do have very close cop friends, if anyone’s trying to attack them on the street while they are on duty, I say they have every right to defend themselves and shoot the mobs. Just look at what the US police would do if they see people as a threat to their safety. The HK people my have the right starting point but it definitely ended in police against crazy violent mobs. I as a normal person would respect the police and co-operate if the they are in operation and ask me to step back.

                My whole point is, our government was too slow to react. There are more infected people coming from the US than China as of today as the PM said a couple of days ago. We are already behind, what can we do to help flatten the curve? Wearing mask is a sensible solution if you have to go out and see people. What the WHO said in Jan is irrelevant to what it is now and there wasn’t a lie to start with since they never said anything about masks won’t work .

                • +1 vote

                  @allenhori: if you don't know much about HK I suggest you take the time to read up on it to get informed on it and understand the conditions as well how the protest went about before spending a large paragraph on the topic. Again, search multiple sources, on the ground interviews, commentary from China as well as abroad.

                  While you have remained courteous, every point you didn't want to talk about or glossed over are in fact the crux of the problem: whistle blower cover-up, human-rights abuse, Chinese pandering by UN / WHO, media bias against travel bans, medias left leaning stance etc.

                  I think it's not productive to blame at this point as the best approach is to solve the problem, but people should not forget or gloss over what happened.

                  Also, if China forced every single person to wear masks or any form of other covering available, so obviously they believe it works. So when you say they managed to keep it under control, don't you at the same time advocate for Masks which is what the OP originally asked about.

                  Also, the only reason I commented on this post is because you mentioned WHO never said about community transmission, which by the tweet I pulled up evidence the opposite. You yourself admit it, and in all likelihood I agree they just took the Chinese claim and legitimised it, but they are still responsible lending that little credibility they had to the lie (and the CCP already knew given they destroyed lap samples early on).

                • +2 votes

                  @allenhori: Also I think language is important, I'd say what the CCP did to those doctors was "unfair" is a fairly strong understatement considering several are now dead under suspicious circumstances. Framing like this could definitely inflame the conversation rather than help. To me it's akin to saying "… what the Hilter did to the Jews were …"


              @allenhori: I'm not sure how aware you are on how China works, but their City Level lockdown is very much different to what the Western world imagines it.

              Also the lock down was at the end of Jan, shortly after City government encouraged massive gathering, after shutting down Whistle Blower Li Wen Liang and his group of doctors.

              You can check the Wiki about him below, look at how early he warned people:

          • +5 votes

            @yannyrjl: should have listened to Taiwan.

            but if we lawyer for WHO, there are different types of masks, ie surgical vs n95 (then not only wearing but the handling of masks may cause issues as well as the supply).

            • +1 vote

              @juki: Yes, Taiwan tried to warn them, but WHO just decided to believe China.

              Look at Hollywood, NBA and now WHO appeasing China for a few more $$$ and now all suffering the consequences. Reminds me of Neville Chamberlain's appeasement to Nazi Germany.

        • -11 votes

          Link the study? Also that's the flu, not coronavirus.

          And like i said droplet protection stops working after 20 minutes, so unless you are replacing your surgical mask every 20 minutes, you are contributing to the hospital shortages and them being exposed and transmitting the virus in a hospital setting.

          Sick of having to educate clueless people that just believe random news articles. You are actually making the situation worse having clinicians spread diseases in hospitals

          • +5 votes

            @DisabledUser194964: Do you think there is a major difference in how the flu and coronavirus is transmitted?

            I highly recommend watching this for some more insight from an expert, it will help educate you further on the topic.


            • -5 votes

              @TEER3X: ughh so you are one of those who just think covi-19 is a bad flu.. no point even dsicussing with you.

              going by your source being a UFC fighter podcast, you are one of those..

              • +7 votes

                @DisabledUser194964: No, don't be an idiot. I despise the UFC (and Josh Rogan) but don't hold any judgement of anyone that doesn't (or does).

                The video features Michael Osterholm, he's one of the most knowledgeable people on this pandemic.

                Obviously covid-19 is much worse than influenza, but mainly because we have never been exposed to it and have zero existing immunity to it…. I do however believe the actual mortality rate is closer to 0.5%, that the only reason it's higher is because of the number of confirmed cases or rather the number of unaccounted for cases.

        • +1 vote

          400% to 500% is massively significant. 5% is considered statistically significant. I wonder if that's the reason why a lot of member discounts are a measly 5%.


            @shiny1: I should clarify that that isn't how statistical significance works. While setting a critical statistical significance level at 5% is commonplace, it can actually be set to other values (10% and 1% being other common values). What you need to know is the p value associated with those measures of 400%-500% to know if those measures were statistically significant.


          Links to the studies please.

          • +14 votes


            Sick of having to educate clueless people

            I'm also sick of people unable to have proper discussion without name calling. No I didn't believe anything I read from some random news article. Here's many others talking about the use of masks and their effectiveness:

            From CHP of Hong Kong: https://www.chp.gov.hk/files/pdf/use_mask_properly.pdf
            From Singapore: https://www.moh.gov.sg/covid-19/faqs

            droplet protection stops working after 20 minutes

            Where's the source? Personally I have never heard of this and I don't think hospital staff change their masks every 20 minutes. Happy to be corrected if I'm wrong.

            Speaking of shortages of masks in hospital, there was a news 2 weeks ago saying Australia has $100 million worth of medical stockpile, including 20 million masks. If there's any shortage of PPE, I believe these can also be requested through Department of Health. Personally I haven't seen any news saying there's shortage of masks and clinicians been exposed to virus as a result.

            Welcome for any constructive feedback without the name calling. Cheers.

        • +1 vote

          Yep, I'm in healthcare myself and understand what's happening.

          Frustrating when randoms on OZB are just completely uneducated and spreading information that's highly damaging to our hospital systems.

          • +1 vote

            @DisabledUser194964: So does that make you a doctor or researcher?

            Are you yourself not a random on OZB?

            Just because you work in healthcare doesn't make you an expert. I know of a hospital in the US where they are banning surgical masks for their staff. See idiots can work in healthcare too.


              @TEER3X: masster probably works in that hospital

          • +6 votes

            @lostn: Not undesrtandable that people are stealing masks and hand sanitizers FROM hospitals, where they are needed the most. Sorry but this is stupidity and selfishness. And masster is right, (surgical) masks don't protect the people wearing if from the virus, why wear it, let alone steal it from an oncology ward in a hospital!!!

    • -1 vote

      Best to wear a mask or an alternative such a motorcycle helmet or good quality stocking, particularly when you go to a bank. Lots of germs there.
      Also carry a long bag too, or a guitar case. Works a treat.

  • +64 votes

    We used a lot of our masks during the bushfires. We, Australia, do have a shortage. And every country in the world wants masks, it’s not easy to get more.

    Hospitals do not have enough long term for frontline workers who are 100% certain they are around this or other dangerous viruses. I have been told this by three different nurses of two hospitals in Melbourne.

    Oh, and those I have seen using masks are not using them properly. They’re touching them every minute, lifting them up to eat or drink, etc. We can’t trust people to use them properly. Why would we waste them when doctors and nurses don't have sufficient access to them.

    • -1 vote

      Someone mentioned elsewhere the masks in the bushfires are different to the surgical masks we need now

      • +13 votes

        I'm pretty sure the masks that were used in the bush fires filter better than surgical masks. The problem is most people have no experience wearing them and don't wear them properly. You need to make a proper seal.

        • +9 votes

          yes and no. One of the main benefits of the masks for infected people is stopping the spittle when they speak or cough so they are less likely to spread the virus. Even a badly fitted mask will assist with this. It also prevents you from touching your mouth.

      • +1 vote

        They are, but a lot of people don’t know that and used surgical ones.

      • +3 votes

        The surgical masks supposedly do not do much to protect you from the virus. The best masks to have are N95 masks, and yes these were heavily purchased during the bushfires (and even when coronavirus did start to spread).

        • +2 votes

          The surgical masks do a great deal to prevent you from spreading the virus.

          • +2 votes

            @Kerb: People aren't buying and wearing masks to prevent spreading the virus. If they are they should be at home in quarantine! They are buying them to protect themselves from the virus.


            @Kerb: Sorry kerb the standard surgical ones do nothing. They've gotta be P2/N95 to be effective

      • +1 vote

        hahahaha the virus goes straight through the surgical ones.

        The bushfire ones are n95 and even then those only last an hour or so of effective use.

        Pointless having everyone wearing one.

        Better just to be smart and let the nurses/doctors use them.

        Difference between us and Asia is that most Aussies only wash their hands and practice hygiene when there is a pandemic going on.

        Harsh truth.

        • +2 votes

          So true. I've been mocked by friends and family in the past for washing my hands…

        • +4 votes

          hahahaha the virus goes straight through the surgical ones.


    • +7 votes

      I know a Brisbane nurse and their PPE situation is a joke. Lots of hospital workers are going to catch this thing.

    • +2 votes

      However there is so much bullshit about the coronavirus and it was done to either not make the public worry or cover for a supply shortage.

      The virus is airborne and while simple surgical masks aren't as effective as n95 gear they still offer significant more protection than nothing and are a tiny bit worse than n95. Even better still if you are an unknowing carrier you protect the community by making it harder for other people to catch.

      With all these bloody rules and shutting down the economy they could just open up some factories pumping out these things 24x7 and make it mandatory for everyone to wear a mask.

      It would cause a significant drop even without social distancing. Mix it with it and it would just about be eradicated.

  • +37 votes

    not been able to find 30 million masks

    Face masks are supposed to be single use and disposed afterwards. You're going to need a lot more than 30 million.

    Dont have much else to add since I don't know anything about the supply.

    I do agree that everyone should be wearing them for that added level of protection. But if there is a supply issue the face masks should be reserved for those on the frontlines.

    • +3 votes


      Face Masks won't prevent infection either. But they can reduce transmission, as the amount of particles you're infected with is reduced making the barrier of infection higher. But more importantly, it causes a psychological change in that people start touching their eyes, nose, ears, and mouth less often. That seems to have a higher effect.

      Although, even if we had enough masks for everyone, and spares as well. It doesn't make sense to wear it if you are "normal". Mask wearing has the biggest effect for those who are in close-contact with suspects (ie Doctors, Nurses, etc etc). And has the biggest effect on the sick, from reducing the expulsion though coughing.

      If everyone stayed home without interacting with anyone, the virus would become extinct in 3 weeks. That's not a viable/possible solution. Neither is it viable to wait for vaccines (as that can take anywhere from 1-9 months). So the most practical solution is to "straighten the curve" by reducing the exponential spread of the virus, and making sure hospitals have plenty of supplies, personnel, resources. And we achieve this with social engineering, by restricting travel, increasing hygiene, and having some "social distancing". Unfortunately, the worst is yet to come, and it will likely take a full-year for at least our country to go back into normal mode (social and production). However, it is more important that this doesn't evolve into social breakdown where fights and thefts become rampant.

  • +59 votes

    they advise u not to wear masks for 2 reasons.

    most people dont know the rules of wearing them, like how to fit them on their faces properly, how long can u use them for, how to safely put them on and take it off, how not to contaminate them by touching your mask all the time etc. that mixed with the confidence it gives people to go out and live a normal life as long as they have a mask on is going to spread the virus alot more than if people are indoors locked in their houses, scared to go out because they dont have masks.

    and the other reason is because there is a shortage and they dont want people buying up masks. taking them alway from medical workers.

    that is it.

    masks do work great if u know how to use them and have the right one. thats why all medical front line people have them on. thats what they are for. surgical masks are different from n95 masks. surgical masks would help not spread the virus if u are sick. but n95 masks are for both sick and not sick people. (dont give a sick person a valved one)

    • +76 votes

      Good comments, but are you afraid that your shift key has the virus?

      • +2 votes

        lol good one

      • +1 vote

        Maybe the shift keys are socially distancing themselves from the rest of the keys. Very responsible.


          Perhaps it's one of them fancy "Paradigm Shifts" everyone keeps going on a boot


          Maybe it's been subject to a CAPS Lock out?


        I reckon its got an ego, in line with username, and doesn't want to be pushed.

    • +6 votes

      "Masks only work if you wear them properly"

      Many people also don't wash their hands properly, but we don't tell them to not bother washing their hands - Something is better than nothing

      I think in addition to shortages there's a cultural reluctance to going out wearing masks among Australians - I have been wearing my N99 mask with changeable filters that I bought for the bushires out and still hardly see anyone else wearing masks on the street in inner Melbourne

      • -1 vote

        yes one of the reasons china and hong kong recovered so fast is because they have lived through alot of viruses and the population automatically put on masks and know the routine. something that Australia will learn the hard way.
        what model mask do u own?

        • -1 vote

          China has told its people to stop recording deaths.
          They haven't flattened the curve, they haven't cure it, they aren't doing better than Italy.
          They are in no way "recovered".

  • +19 votes


    Newspaper letter to the editor from a surgeon.

    • +2 votes

      That's nuts.

      I completely agree if there is a shortage, it needs to go to the people on the front line.

      But also crazy there is a shortage in the first place. Would've assumed Australia would've some sort of plan for a pandemic and in that plan we would've stockpiled these masks

      • +6 votes

        The countries that make most of them stopped exporting them in December to preserve stock for themselves….

      • +1 vote

        The problem is that the rubber perishes over time, so the stockpile needs to be regularly replenished.


          So do that. I'm sure there's normal non pandemic usage of these masks.

          It must be the same with other things we need to stockpile. (Eg. Oil)

          Sounds like there really wasn't any foresight here

          • +2 votes

            @witsa: They do that, but when you're rotating stock of say 20 million masks you could reasonably use that up whereas if you're stockpiling 300 million masks you can't reasonably use that much.

            Different story for oil, for one if you store it without oxygen that stuff can literally last thousands of years. Also there's way more uses for oil no just for petroleum, but construction, industrial and plastic manufacturers all consume oil.

            Bottom line could they have stockpiled hundreds of millions of masks? Sure, would it make economical sense? No.

  • +11 votes

    I feel like there are issues with communication here, though I don't have the expertise to know for sure.

    They don't say "you don't need it" the recommendation feels more like "Don't wear one, it doesn't do anything", and I think the issue is people are sitting here saying wut? That doesn't make sense?!? Why do doctors need it then? Even if it doesn't do much, wouldn't any little bit help? Which just makes everyone not believe official sources, I can't count the number of people who told me they believe its bullshizzle.

    I feel like the Australian people are down to earth types, and instead, they should just say "hay the masks help a little, but you're taking it away from doctors and nurses who legit need it more, unless you've got a compromised immune system please don't buy up all the stock". And it would probably go a much longer way in helping on the shortage.

    • +2 votes

      I used to think 'the Australian people are down to earth types'. Looking at the empty shelves, where the toilet papers are supposed to go, I changed my mind. People are selfish, and it is true everywhere.

  • +8 votes

    I'd wear a mask if I could find one! Funnily enough the only people I see wearing them when walking around the city are mainly of Asian descent….where are they getting them from?

    • +14 votes

      They've probably always had them, more prepared. Before the pandemic who were the only people you ever seen wearing them?


      Some pharmacy still had some, selling $3 each for 3 ply masks N95 [email protected]

      Would you willing to spend this much?


        @Snooze I would be willing to pay for it but I have been looking for them for months but could find none. Which store have them, near Melbourne would be great thanks

        • +1 vote

          I am located at Hornsby area in NSW.

          Look on eBay, there are plenty. I have bought some for around $2 each and take 4 days to deliver from VIC.

          Pm me and I can send you the listing I bought from


          Ebay have sellers 50 surgical masks for $42

          But extra gaskets about 100 pcs for $14 and extend the life of your mask. Use it for longer.

          Both sellers are on ebay can send link


        if they're chinese, they're used to wearing them back home anyway, so keeping stock around is not unusual for them. We aren't used to wearing them, so when everyone decides they want one, there aren't any around.


      You need to change it several times a day for it to be effective.


        It can last for 4-6 hours if you use it properly, so use when you get on and off public transport.


      eBay sell $2 each.

    • +2 votes

      They got in early when everyone else thought it was no big deal.


        Still, a lot of people on here thought it was no big deal.


      It is quite easy to and cheap to buy from China now. Many Chinese bought online and get them shipped to Australia. If the government place the order now, they should be able to have the masks in a week. Ps, we think we all should wear a mask since the supply is definitely enough now. At least the mask prevents the patient to spread the virus during the incubation period. Also, a lot of people saying you have to wear the mask properly and I totally agree. But how long to learn wearing it properly? Two minutes should be enough. I didn't know how to wear a mask properly until I saw a video recently.

  • +7 votes

    Why shouldn't we adopt an Authoritarian regime? Their countries are booming and handling this better than us. Maybe democracy is the problem?

    • +13 votes

      you don't need an authoritarian regime to contain a virus. Singapore, Taiwan and HK have done a very good job without such a regime. The key is they were prepared, not complacent. All 3 countries have single digit deaths and no more than a few hundred cases. Due to experience with past outbreaks, they were ready and knew what to do, acted early to prevent it from getting where we are. You can add Korea to the list of prepared countries even though they were hit with a serious outbreak. They do not have stock shortages in their supermarkets. Everything is full. And they didn't need to close every non-essential business. Their daily new cases number in the double digits.

      Western countries on the other hand were not prepared. They recalled that recent outbreaks such as swine flu, mers, sars were confined to other countries, and the containment was the responsibility of those countries, not theirs. They just didn't fathom a world the virus would make its way into their borders and got complacent. When they saw only a handful of cases imported in, they assumed that was all they had, and as long as they monitored each one, the risk was low. It was spreading, they just didn't know about it because they weren't testing people. They didn't bother contact tracing or mass testing until it was too late. By the time they acted, the damage had already been done.

      It's not their fault the virus exists in the first place, but they have known about its existence including internal cases for over 2 months now. They had time to prepare but underestimated the severity of the situation and didn't act in time. Thousands of cases didn't just appear overnight. The seed was there months ago and was not nipped in the bud before it could do the damage it has done.

      Things will only continue to get worse from here on unfortunately. I predict this will hit us harder than the great depression.

      • +1 vote

        I don't think you are comparing the same situation between these countries. When Wuhan was locked down, there were already hundreds of thousand people infected. However, when Singapore, Taiwan, HK and Korea started to control, only tens of people were infected. Also, almost all these countries encourage their people to wear masks and educate them how to wear it properly.

        I believe CCP is handling this better than democratic countries for this situation, but I STILL prefer to have democracy.

  • +2 votes

    It's probably because there isn't enough stock. Imagine how much panic there would be if the official advice was wear a mask and there's no stock. Panic buying would be nothing compared to the chaos not having masks would cause

    • +5 votes

      Until recently I only saw Chinese/Indian/subcontinent people wearing masks, but today I saw two Caucasian looking people wearing them too. More people will certainly wear them next month, if they can get stock. I wouldn't be surprised if there will be areas of our major cities where you're not allowed in public without one in June/July/August.

      I'm not of Asian descent but have prepared.

    • +6 votes

      I've seen Asians, Lebanese, White people all wear masks in Sydney.

      Just an FYI for you and others, because there's a lot of shit being spread online because of people's personal prejudices. In times like these we need to be sensible and use our brains instead of believing everything and spreading shit.

    • +8 votes

      If you're referring to Asians, it's because Asians have always had them. It's already embedded in their culture to wear masks in public, on public transport etc for hygiene reasons.


        See many ethnicities wearing them recently but Asians the most common probably for reasons already discussed.

        Highlight was a girl I saw yesterday who looked of European origin. Had colour co-ordinated a black mask with her outfit and looked amazing!