The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) is urging people to ‘mask up’ to help stop the spread of COVID-19.
The rules on wearing masks or face covering, differ depending on where you live. The Victorian Government made it mandatory for people over the age of 12 in metropolitan Melbourne and Mitchell Shire on July 22, following a concerning rise in COVID-19 cases. National advice is to wear a mask or face covering in areas of community transmission where social distancing is difficult.
Chair RACGP Victoria Dr Cameron Loy urged people to follow the advice of health authorities and wear a mask or face covering in areas of community transmission.
“Wearing a face covering will help reduce community transmission – which is what everyone wants, the sooner people ‘mask up’ in areas of community transmission, the sooner we will get on top of this virus.
“While most people should be able to wear a face covering, there are some who will have a legitimate reason not to. It goes without saying that these people must not be discriminated against or ostracised.”
The Victorian Department of Health and Human Services lists lawful exemptions for not wearing a face covering. These include those under 12, medical conditions such as those that may impact breathing, where there is a condition of the face, a disability or mental health concern, or if you’re doing certain exercises, including, running and cycling.
While there is no obligation for GPs to provide this, the RACGP has produced a letter template for GPs to use when they feel that their patient has a legitimate need to not wear a face covering and they may benefit from having this documented.
This comes after the new rules in Victoria led to patients asking GPs to provide exemption letters – this is despite the state health department stating that medical certificates will not be required for those who cannot wear a face covering.
Dr Loy said GPs cannot provide ‘exemptions’ and can only provide their assessment of their patient’s medical conditions which may mean they cannot wear a face covering.
“GPs should use these letters wisely, as with all medical certificates. It is for the greater public health good that all those who can wear a face covering, do.
“In these difficult times when we are seeing community transmission in many places, we all need to do our bit.
“Whenever you leave your home, remember to mask up – this is about protecting yourself, your loved ones and everyone else in our community.
“And remember a face mask or covering is not a suit of armour against COVID-19 – people still need to follow the other advice to stay safe, including maintaining a physical distance of 1.5m from others, regular hand washing, and cough and sneezing into your elbow.”