N95 mask the “most effective protection”
As Dunedin tackles the challenges of living in the red light of Covid-19 and people are encouraged to wear a mask in most situations, some experts are wondering what we use to cover ourselves.
On Tuesday, the government announced new guidelines on the use of masks, including the requirement to wear masks in food and drink businesses, and when gatherings at work or events were nearby.
Alternatives such as scarves, bandanas or other clothing were no longer enough, a real mask was needed.
Workers who needed to be vaccinated were required to wear a medical-grade mask in audience-facing roles.
Chief Health Officer Dr Ashley Bloomfield said their advice to the public focused on a properly fitting mask, whether it’s a three-layer cloth mask or a medical surgical mask or of a combination of the two.
“We are not going to recommend the use of the N95 [masks] for the general public going about their daily lives, in part because they are expensive and harder to obtain.”
University of Otago epidemiologist and lead researcher Dr Amanda Kvalsvig said that while the plan presented by the government to slow the spread of the Omicron variant had a number of strengths, the government needed to move away from its current stance on respirator masks (e.g. P2 or N95) which seemed to be that the public would not understand how to wear them.
“This position would deprive New Zealanders of one of the most effective protections they currently have.”
Even uneducated, N95-style masks tend to fit better around the face than surgical masks, which typically bunch up at the sides so they have gaps for the virus to enter.
“The Prime Minister has signaled that the containment measures will not be used.
“If this is the case and New Zealanders are mixing in public while Omicron is circulating, then people need to have access to effective masks.”
In a Harvard University study, N95 face masks were found to be a more effective barrier than cloth masks in protecting against coronavirus microparticles.
Unfortunately, they are very rare.
Nationally, St John’s has sold out and on Monday five pharmacies in Dunedin verified by The Star had none in stock, although Bunnings still has P2 masks, which have specifications similar to N95.
Antidote Group had hoped to have N95 masks available but was unable to take advance orders and said that when stock arrived it was likely customers would be limited in the number they could buy. —Additional reporting Gillian Vine
– Chinese New Year celebrations at Lan Yuan, Dunedin Chinese Garden, which were scheduled to take place on Friday 11 February, have been canceled due to the Covid-19 red light setting.
– Access to the Hocken Collections is restricted to University of Otago staff and students under Covid-19 red light.
This means the public cannot visit the ‘Kaleidoscope World: 40 Years of Flying Nun in Dunedin’ exhibition at the Hocken Gallery at this time.
– The Dunedin Craft Beer and Food Festival, scheduled for February 4 and 5, has been cancelled.
The University of Otago Students’ Association would continue to monitor government directives and make relevant decisions for future events as information becomes available, OUSA chief executive Debbie Downs said.
“We respect the government’s decision to prioritize the health and safety of Aotearoa at this stage.”
The festival was originally scheduled to be held in December last year but was pushed back due to Covid-19.
– The Otago Community Trust New Zealand Masters Games have been cancelled.
The games were due to take place at various venues around Dunedin, from February 5-13.
Thousands of people from across the country travel for the games.
The games could only take place if the city was orange or green in the traffic light system.
A statement on the games website said the No. 1 priority was the safety and well-being of participants, staff and volunteers.
– The Farmers & Artists Waitati Market which was normally held this Sunday has been cancelled. The market is normally held on the last Sunday of the month in the village center of Harvey St.
– The Waitangi Day Whanau Festival which was due to take place on February 6 at the Dunedin Public Art Gallery car park in Moray Pl has been cancelled.
– The Music in Dunedin Parks which was due to take place at Tahuna Park in St Kilda on February 27 has been cancelled.
– The Dunedin Home Show 2022 which was due to take place from March 4-6 has been cancelled.
Organizers said they plan to be back February 24-26 next year.
– Sport Otago’s Dunedin Stride, Ride and Slide has been cancelled. The event was scheduled for Sunday, February 13.
Organizers said the health of the community was of the utmost importance and that socially responsible action should be canceled.
– The South Dunedin street festival scheduled for April 2 has been cancelled. The festival committee said it could not accommodate large crowds during the red frame and was unsure how long it would remain in place.
“We would like to thank all of our supporters and everyone who has worked for the festival.”
– Outram’s Flower Show has been cancelled. The show was due to be held on February 18 at Outram Rugby Club.