Health minister’s embarrassing mask fail
Queensland's health minister has been caught out on local radio for not knowing her state's own rules when it comes to wearing masks inside gyms.
When the Greater Brisbane three-day lockdown was eased on Monday night, a mask mandate for the next ten days was introduced as health authorities race to contain any potential outbreak of a highly infectious strain of COVID-19.
Among the rules, masks were made mandatory at a number of indoor settings, including at gyms.
It sparked concern for many keen gym-goers, with social media users referring to the World Health Organisation who previously stated wearing masks while exercising was a risk to health and safety.
Q: Can people wear masks while exercising?— World Health Organization (WHO) (@WHO) July 1, 2020
A: People should NOT wear masks when exercising as masks may reduce the ability to breathe comfortably.
More ➡️ https://t.co/TdKoGmWrIr#COVID19 #coronavirus #KnowTheFacts pic.twitter.com/vDtg0khRzY
Late on Monday night, Brisbane gyms took to Facebook to tell their members they had been further updated from the country's peak industry body, Fitness Australia on advice from Queensland Health.
The new advice, shared widely by gyms and posted on the Queensland Health website, dictated gym-goers were not longer required to wear a face mask during strenuous exercise, which includes a high-intensity class, running or cycling, as well as strenuous cardio or strength training.
But when questioned on ABC Radio on Tuesday morning, Health Minister Yvette D'Ath initially said it was "mandatory for people to wear masks in gyms" given the high risk nature of the venue - sparking an awkward debate where the politician was left speechless after being found to have the wrong information
"What we have said is that you may remove your mask when exercising indoors when you're out of breath … We don't want people to hyperventilate or make themselves sick or put their safety at risk," Ms D'Ath said.
"We know it's an inconvenience."
When asked whether people undertaking high intensity training could do so without a mask, as stipulated on the Queensland Health website, Ms D'Ath said that was not true.
"It's not the case where everyone doing an aerobics class can take their mask off. If someone is particularly over-exerting themselves and it's a risk to their safety, then they should take their mask off," she said.
"But if everyone's in the same room and huffing and puffing, that's a risk."
Ms D'Ath was then asked why an earlier caller, who owns a gym, was given a different directive by Fitness Australia on advice from Queensland Health.
"You can take it off if you're huffing and puffing. It's common sense. Don't interpret it as everyone's doing a cardio class, let's take the mask off," Ms D'Ath said.
Host Craig Zonca asked whether this was an example of confusion and inconsistencies surrounding the Brisbane mask mandate as he read out the Queensland Health website guidelines to Ms D'Ath.
"And I quote … you do not have to wear a mask indoors if you are doing strenuous aerobic exercise such as high-intensity interval training, cycling, running or team sport," he said.
After a period of speechlessness, Ms D'Ath eventually conceded that trainers would direct members as to what exercise was classified high intensity.
"That shouldn't be used as an excuse to just not wear one, don't read this as an out clause," she said.
"Gyms are high risk, but listen to the gym and take that advice. Just be sensible."
Originally published as Health minister's embarrassing mask fail