Should I wear a mask? Experts on how we stay safe as Australia eases coronavirus restrictions

Guardian Australia asked several epidemiologists and healthcare professionals to answer some common questions. Unless you have been given medical advice suggesting otherwise, don’t bother wearing a mask when going out, according to the University of Newcastle professor of nursing, Brett Mitchell. The Australian government recommends regular hand-washing to prevent the spread of Covid-19, but doesn’t suggest people cover their hands by wearing gloves. “They can transfer pathogens too and also become contaminated when you touch something.” Vally agrees that “while no one is going to be put in jail for hugging someone, the whole reason that these restrictions are being relaxed is on the presumption and the assurance that people are going to be responsible”. According to Vally, that means keeping a 1.5-metre distance from people with whom you don’t share a household and making sure you wash your hands a lot. “The whole reason we are [only allowing a few visitors at a time] is to limit the amount of contact we have with people in case we have the virus and we are spreading it,” Vally says. If you show common sense and only catch up with closest friends and family, that is going to be better for everyone.” But Vally, whose research includes child health, says this is a situation where the cost could outweigh the risks. “The most sensible approach is to make sure your children know not to touch their face, and then wash their hands multiple times in between their play sessions and after they have played.” The same goes for adults: “Just assume [the gym equipment] could be contaminated. Thankfully, Vally says that patting a dog – “which is a lovely thing to do” – poses a very low risk of transmission. At the end of the day, it’s up to shopkeepers and managers to ensure patrons are keeping a safe distance. The University of New South Wales epidemiologist Prof Marylouise McLaws says she personally “will be asking other people to please uphold physical distancing to keep everyone safe”. “It’s a sign of respect: you are showing the other customers and workers in the shop that you are removing your germs before entering their space,” she says. But you can keep safe by waiting for another bus, train or tram if yours looks crowded, and sanitising your hands immediately before getting on and after disembarking, Stevenson says. Yes, use your elbow, wrist or knee, because “touching buttons with your hands and then touching your face is how you can increase transmission quite quickly, Stevenson says.