What is the evidence that Victorian Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton relied upon prior to mandating face masks be worn by all Victorians in Metro Melbourne (indoors or outdoors) from July 22 2020?
The response to an FOI request to the Victorian Department of Health gives some insight into the available scientific evidence, provided by the Burnet Institute, which was used to justify the mandate.
Email to Brett Sutton from the Burnet Institute, June 30 2020:
A quote from the email:
This issue … is a difficult policy decision given the limited evidence base.
Email from Brett Sutton to health staff, July 1 2020
The email from the Burnet Institute to Sutton includes a link to their Knowledge Hub for COVID-19 ‘Know-C19’, find it here:
Also included with the FOI response was a ‘Know-C19’ Policy Brief dated June 29 2020, find the PDF here:
Below is the first page of this 5-page document as supplied in the FOI response, which shows that this document was indeed supplied as part of the FOI response, so is relevant to Sutton’s decision-making on masks.
Notable quote from the document:
At present, there is no available direct evidence (from studies on COVID19 and in healthy people in the community) on the effectiveness of universal masking of healthy people in the community to prevent infection with respiratory viruses, including COVID-19. Whilst low on the hierarchy of infection control, there is the potential for benefit but also for harm.
And another quote:
We postulate that masks may have an effect in increasing cooperation with prevention by providing a visual symbol of the need for whole-of-community participation.
It appears the drive for masks was more about social control than infection control.
In July or August 2021 Daniel Andrews said in a press conference there was very good evidence that masks work.
It appears he was referring to a mask study from the Burnet Institute, published July 21 2021 – see the following article about this study:
The researchers looked at infection rates in Melbourne before and after mask mandates were introduced July 22 2020, noting that other restrictions in that period did not change, and found the new case rate went down.
This is not a scientific assessment of whether masks stop transmission.