Wearing a mask in places open for essential services and transport during level 4 will be mandatory for everyone over the age 11 from 11.50pm tonight. Re: journalist Matiu Hamuera caught up with some of the experts to talk about the effectiveness of wearing one.

Now that the Delta variant of Covid-19 is in the community, new rules around mask wearing are being implemented in places like supermarkets, pharmacies, petrol stations, taxis and bus terminals.

To begin with, masks reduce the risk of those infected with Covid spreading the virus. 

Essentially, they work as a filter. When you breathe through one, it traps virus particles and stops them from reaching the people around you.

Dr Amanda Kvalsvig, epidemiologist at the University of Otago Wellington, says wearing masks is about protecting “one another”. 

“There’s evidence that people with Delta variant infection are breathing out a much heavier virus load compared with the previous variants, so masks are going to be a very important part of our response to this highly infectious variant,” she says.

Dr Kvalsvig also supports the Government’s emphasis on the importance of mask wearing, and the inclusion of younger age groups.

“Other countries including Australia are seeing a steep rise in Covid-19 Delta cases in young children and teenagers, so I’m also pleased to see that the mask requirement is for age 12 and up,” she says. 

“It’s good to see this recognition of the need to protect our young people, and for young people to play their part in protecting others.”

Dr Joel Rindelaub, aerosol chemist from the University of Auckland, says the Delta variant is almost like a new virus, and a new approach is needed to help stop it.

“The US Center for Disease Control has actually now reinstated the recommendations for mask wearing due to its high transmissibility,” he says. 

“A good thing for us to do is to learn from what other countries have done and to actually start implementing some of these mandates - like we already have with public transit. Now we can expand that to greater areas to help protect New Zealanders and to reduce the spread of Covid-19,”

“If we can get everyone to buy in and wear masks then we can actually reduce the transmission of the Covid-19, so it's something that we all need to come together to achieve,” says Dr Rindelaub.

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