24 Aug 2020

Explainer: Masks mandatory in high alert levels

6:55 pm on 24 August 2020

As New Zealand tries to once again stamp out Covid-19, the prime minister has said masks will become mandatory on public transport at alert level 2 and above.

16-year-old Yuni Cheng Wiik hangs out colourful face masks that she made for her family and friends on 20 April 20, 2020 in Nesodden, a suburb across the fjord of Oslo, Norway.

A teenager in Norway with masks sewn for her family. In mid August Norway made masks mandatory on public transport during peak times. Photo: AFP

Prime Minister Jacinda Arden announced Cabinet's decision to make masks mandatory on public transport today after the Cabinet meeting, where it was also decided alert levels will be maintained until at least Sunday 30 August.

She says the mask requirement will apply at level 2 and above, and will come into effect from Monday 31 August.

Children will not be required to wear masks, but an exact age has not yet been decided.

Why wear masks?

Wearing masks is only one part in keeping people safe; it has to be paired with good hand hygiene and physical distancing.

Face masks prevent droplets from spreading when someone speaks, laughs, coughs or sneezes.

It helps stop the spread from people who might feel well and have no symptoms but still have Covid-19.

How to make a mask

Watch this video showing how to make three different kinds of mask from household items:

When should masks be worn?

At alert level 2, face coverings need to be worn when physical distancing is not possible like on public transport, planes or in shops.

Taxis and rideshare services like Uber are included in the rule.

In school, children, tertiary students and teachers do not need to wear masks in level 2, according to the government's Covid-19 information website.

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Photo: RNZ / Vinay Ranchhod

At alert level 3, face coverings need to be worn when outside your home and in places where physical distancing cannot be maintained.

At alert level 4, most people need to stay indoors, so masks will only have to be worn by those in essential services, or those in contact with them. However, the requirement on public transport remains.

Types of masks

The type of masks will not be policed.

When worn, the mask should cover the nose, mouth and chin completely.

Most people can use face coverings like a bandana, scarf or t-shirt; they do not have to be of medical grade. These masks prevent the wearer from spreading diseases and can also help them from contracting it.

People are encouraged to explore alternatives to single-use masks if they can afford to, or to fashion a mask from things found at home.

Medical masks or surgical grade masks - usually worn by health sector workers - protect the wearer from becoming infected, and from spreading diseases to others.

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