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Dr Ashley Bloomfield says telling public to buy masks isn't 'scaremongering'

The Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield says he’s not “scaremongering” by advising people to stock up on face masks in the chance New Zealand has a second wave of Covid-19 in the community.

During a Facebook live Q&A session on the Ministry of Health’s page, Dr Bloomfield was asked if he was causing unnecessary fear by telling people to buy masks.

“I don’t think it’s scaremongering to ask people to prepare for a natural disaster like an earthquake - it’s about looking after people.

“And that’s something New Zealand has done well today. We’re prioritising looking after the safety and wellbeing of New Zealanders.

“We can see how this virus can compromise people’s wellbeing and compromises the healthcare system and puts us in a grave economic position too if we have to go into another lockdown.

“This is about being prepared so we can avoid a lockdown.”

The Facebook live comes after Dr Bloomfield told media this week that masks could become mandatory under Alert Level 3 if we have a resurgence of Covid-19.

Yesterday, the Government recommended Kiwis should add masks to their emergency supply kits in case of another outbreak in the community.

The change of stance on wearing masks by the Ministry of Health has been questioned by National Party deputy leader Gerry Brownlee.

“Why is it now when we have 94 days now with no community transmission and apparently secure borders that they’re suddenly wanting to bring this up?” he said in an interview with RNZ this morning.

“There’s nothing wrong with having an emergency kit and if masks are part of it that’s fine. I suppose I’d have to say it’s the strength of the way it’s being put to us that is of concern.

“If we’ve got a secure border then we should not have any further community transmission.”

In the Facebook live Dr Bloomfield said the mask recommendation was about being prepared and this wasn’t an indication we were going back into lockdown.

“We’re not recommending people use them now, there’s no need to use them now.

“There is still no evidence of Covid-19 in the community.”

“Level 1 is about being prepared.

“We want to use every tool in the toolbox not to go up the alert levels.”

An estimated 12 million masks are available to buy in New Zealand. However, some are calling for the Ministry of Health to share more information on how people can make their own effective masks.