Burnet Institute statement re. article

Burnet Institute

21 October, 2021

Paper published in PLoS ONE on 21 July 2021

The introduction of a mandatory mask policy was associated with significantly reduced COVID-19 cases in a major metropolitan city

Today an article published on questioned the findings of a Burnet Institute-led research paper on the impact of the introduction of a mandatory mask policy in Melbourne, published by PLoS One on 21 July 2021.

The article quoted a medical researcher/PhD student from UNSW and an “anonymous” researcher as the sources questioning the study findings.

Burnet Institute stands by our paper. We accept that not everyone has to agree with our work, and the two scientists quoted in the article, one anonymously, are welcome to their views.

Others, including the peer-reviewers of our paper thought differently, although we note that no other independent view was presented in the article.

Our paper, available on our website, showed that the introduction of the mandatory mask policy in Melbourne coincided with a marked decline in cases. The mask policy was introduced in isolation from other restrictions which allowed for a unique assessment of its potential.

This was unusual and why we claimed it was a ‘world first’ at the time. Furthermore, the primary detailed statistical analysis was supported in two different ways, linking the mandatory mask policy to increased mask use.

We also note that now, over a year later than when this work was done, there is a huge body of international work supporting the use of face masks, which is presumably why virtually all jurisdictions in Australia and around the world adopt them.

As for the effectiveness of outdoor masks, the policy that was introduced was for indoor and outdoor mask use and so we assessed it. We do not know if an indoor-only policy would work as well.

Everyone is entitled to their views, but to publish a headline “it’s crap” that is attributed to the unnamed scientist, is very disappointing and unprofessional.

Contact Details

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Burnet Institute

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