The hosts of The Project engaged in a heated argument on Monday night with Steve Price after he called for the return of mask mandates and calls to urge people to work from home as the Covid pandemic worsens during the winter months.
Health officials around the country have warned that there will be a large spike in Covid cases as two sub-variants of Omicron, BA.4 and BA.5, spread across the country.
There are currently 4,327 people hospitalised with the virus, which is close to the January peak of 5,205 on Australia Day.
Steve called for mandatory masks and urged people to work from home to slow the recent spike in infections.
He blamed the upcoming elections in NSW and Victoria for the lack of action being taken by politicians.
"Let's be frank about what's happening here," he said. "The politicians are not listening to the health advice anymore because Victoria and New South Wales have got elections coming up.
"And they don't want to tell people that they have to get locked down or wear masks."
Hamish MacDonald asked if he really thought the population was ready to subject to another mask mandate, "In formulating public health policy throughout this pandemic, the authorities have had to judge, what will the public accept?"
He added, "And I think it is different now to what it was six months ago, 12 months ago, two years ago. I think there is fatigue. Do you think the public would accept another work from home or an enforced mask mandate?"
"If you're lying in the back of an ambulance for eight hours on a ramp because you can't get into hospital or bed because it's full of COVID patients, then yes," Steve hit back. "I think we're on the edge of the public saying okay, we need to introduce masks at certain places more frequently."
Carrie Bickmore then said she thought it would be "triggering" for people to hear they were being told what to do once again.
"I think it would be triggering hearing work from home orders mandates for a lot of people," she said. "I think even people that want safe communities, safe workplaces who care about those around them - I think hearing that, there's not an appetite for it."
Steve didn't back down, adding, "I accept that - but if you talk to anyone who's in a hospital, they are now being overrun in every state of the country by people with Covid.
"They have to stop the numbers continuing to grow. The numbers in intensive care are going up. We're in the middle of winter, it's getting worse."
He then pointed out Peter Helliar, saying, "I think we're on the edge of the public saying okay, we need to introduce masks at certain places more frequently – Peter wears a mask regularly in places, don't you?"
"I wear one on the train, on public transport, the shops," Peter told the group. "And I'd much rather be doing that than thinking of going back into another lockdown or anything like that. It's a personal choice, obviously, but masks don't freak me out like they do a lot of people."
"Masks save lives," one Twitter user wrote in response. "I would wear a mask as much for my community as for myself. More preferable than lockdown."
"The pandemic is not over and it’s not triggering to WFH - most people want to WFH where they can," another wrote.
"It doesn’t have to be ‘work from home orders’ or ‘mask orders’," a third added. "They can have a ‘slip slop slap’ type public campaign to inform people to take precautions. Why go to an extreme position as if there’s no in-between that helps guide people."
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