Free masks likely for public transport in South Australia

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Free face masks are likely to be provided on Adelaide’s public transport system to promote better compliance with COVID-19 rules and reduce the infection rate in the community.

A meeting of South Australia’s Emergency Management Council discussed the move on Tuesday, with Police Commissioner Grant Stevens confirming steps were being taken to determine how that could happen.

Mr Stevens said SA Health compliance staff would also go to public transport hubs to remind people of their obligations.

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The SA opposition had previously called for free masks amid mounting evidence that many people were breaking the rules.

Although face masks remain mandatory in public buses, trains and trams, as well as in taxis and shared cars, their use has declined in recent months.

Opposition health spokeswoman Ashton Hurn said the proposal for free masks had the support of health officials and should be adopted as a wise move.

“As our hospitals endure extreme pressure during this third wave, providing free masks to support compliance on public transportation is an action that could ease the strain on our health system,” she said.

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“This initiative aims to protect passengers on our trains, trams and buses and would mean that South Australians will board sooner wearing masks and will be more likely to continue to patronize public transport.”

SA Health reported a further 2,848 COVID-19 cases and three deaths on Tuesday.

There are 352 people in hospital with COVID-19, including nine in intensive care

Mr. Stevens said the most recent case number modeling indicated that SA had passed the peak in the current wave of infections caused by the advent of the BA.4 and BA.5 Omicron variants.

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“We hope this also leads to a reduction in the number of hospitals,” he said.

“But all signs are positive at the moment.”