By TONY MOBILIFONITIS
A CONVENIENTLY-forgotten Australian news story has completely exposed the lie that basic face masks can prevent infection from viruses.
The story from the Sydney Morning Herald on April 27th, 2003, reported that New South
Wales health authorities would issue massive fines to retailers or others who tried to sell masks as protection from the SARS virus that was spreading at the time.
The 2003 report quoted an infectious diseases professor at Sydney University who said the masks would actually spread the virus when they became moist from breathing and were only effective for 15 to 20 minutes. A traveler returning from China also told the paper she had been told that you needed 16 layers of mask to be 95% effective against the virus.
Meanwhile public health corporations like Queensland Health are still pushing the mask narrative, recommending they be worn under their current “amber tier” alert. But these so-called alerts are being ignored according to patients known to Cairns News. One patient was texted by the department about mask wearing to a dental facility but when he arrived there, he said the “directive” was totally ignored.
In 2003 health authorities had a starkly different narrative than in 2020. “Retailers who cash in on community fears about SARS by exaggerating the health benefits of surgical masks could face fines of up to $110,000,” the Herald reported. The NSW Fair Trading Minister Reba Meagher was quoted as warning that distributors and traders “could be prosecuted if it was suggested the masks offered unrealistic levels of protection from the disease”.
“I’m sure everyone would agree that it is un-Australian to profiteer from people’s fears and anxieties,” Ms Meagher said. “There appears to be some debate about whether surgical masks are able to minimise the effects of SARS.” Penalties could range from fines of up to $22,000 for an individual or $110,000 for a corporation.
“Health authorities have warned that surgical masks may not be an effective protection against the virus.” the newspaper noted. “Those masks are only effective so long as they are dry,” said Professor Yvonne Cossart of the Department of Infectious Diseases at the University of Sydney. “As soon as they become saturated with the moisture in your breath they stop doing their job and pass on the droplets,” the professor said.
“Professor Cossart said that could take as little as 15 or 20 minutes, after which the mask would need to be changed. But those warnings haven’t stopped people snapping up the masks, with retailers reporting they are having trouble keeping up with demand.”
The report went on to quote John Bell from the Pharmaceutical Society of Australia, owner of a pharmacy in Woollahra, Sydney, who said mask supplies were running low but agreed with Professor Cossart’s assessment regarding their effectiveness.
“I think they’re of marginal benefit,” he said. “In a way they give some comfort to people who think they’re doing as much as they can do to prevent the infection.”
The paper went on the report that Rosemary Taylor, of Kirribilli, arrived in Sydney from Shanghai (a week before the report) after a two-week holiday in China. She and her travelling companion Joan Switzer had worn the masks during the trip home, even though they had been warned they were of little value. “We were told you need 16 layers on your mask for it to offer 95per cent protection,” Ms Taylor said.