NSW Health finally gets the strata mask message


It’s taken a few serious nudges but NSW Health has finally come round to the idea that ordering apartment residents in greater Sydney to wear masks on common property is a good idea.

Last week’s advisory has now been upgraded to a
Public Health Order – read more here

Last week it was only a recommendation and they becgan distributing posters that you could print on A4 paper that supported the wearing of masks in the public areas of residential buildings.

They asked strata professionals and other organisations to help with distributing the poster.

“The COVID-19 Delta variant is more transmissible than previous variants of COVID-19 we’ve experienced. With high occupancy and movement in residential buildings, it’s more important than ever to promote mask wearing when around others,” the emails said

“We recommend the poster be displayed in frequented common areas such as foyers, lifts, garbage disposal areas and hallways due to increased opportunities for transmission.

“Please forward to your site managers and any relevant contacts, and if you can think of any other resources that may help you spread this important health message, please don’t hesitate to contact us.’

Now, as you can read in this story, they have mandated mask wearing from Tuesday, July 13.

We’re not taking all the credit for this change of heart.  The Owners Corporation Network (OCN) has been on this from day one.

Mask-up poster and link to pdf
You can download a pdf of this new poster here Links to posters for non-Sydney schemes as well as health advice can be found in this story

“In NSW, OCN has raised the risk of transmission in apartment buildings on more than one occasion,” a spokesperson told Flat Chat. “This year OCN raised the matter again because Health NSW will not acknowledge that apartment buildings are potential exposure sites.”

But this story on our website, about the anger in strata communities that we were casually dismissed as being in the same contagion boat as house dwellers, may have got NSW Health’s attention.

Then there was this piece in the Australian Financial Review, which followed the mask-up rules that specifically excluded residential buildings.

In it I wrote: “With Sydneysiders subject to increased restrictions this week, one feels compelled to ask if the delta variation of the virus can be so easily spread in offices, shops and car parks, what about apartment blocks?

“At least one Victorian medical expert has pointed out that unit block corridors and lifts pose the same potential risk as quarantine hotels, only without the rigorous protections and isolation that the latter employ.”

“But now that common areas in strata developments are known to be high-risk zones, why are we excluded from the safety notices?”

Prior to that, as reported in this story, NSW Health didn’t think apartment residents were a special case, and it believed there were “enough measures in place to keep everyone – no matter where they lived – safe.”

Finally, in last weekend’s column in the AFR, I wrote that it would be impossible to have QR code check-ins for all the apartment blocks in NSW “but if residents were wearing masks in common areas, you probably wouldn’t need [them].”

We’re getting there. We aren’t going to even ask why it took so long for NSW health to get on board with what is a pretty basic and obvious public health protection measure.

Suffice it to say you can download the new poster here, print it and ask your committee or building manager to pin it up wherever it will do most good.

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