Former Army Nuclear, Biological and Chemical warfare instructor Bob Waldron of Gladstone says the government should have made wearing face masks compulsory to stop the spread of COVID-19. Picture: Rodney Stevens
Former Army Nuclear, Biological and Chemical warfare instructor Bob Waldron of Gladstone says the government should have made wearing face masks compulsory to stop the spread of COVID-19. Picture: Rodney Stevens

Pandemic panic: Mask mistake that led to major outbreak

AN ARMY biosecurity expert says the government has dropped the ball on making face masks compulsory, which would have prevented the virus outbreaks currently being experienced in Australia.

Gladstone resident Bob Waldron was a former logistics Captain in charge of the deployment of 14,000 troops and equipment in the Australian Army until he was retired in 2001.

Extensively trained from 1964 in biosecurity and biological warfare, he claims the panic of the pandemic clouded the thinking of health experts on best practice solutions.

Prior to the virus outbreak, Mr Waldron said Australia had sufficient masks to supply the entire population.

"Not making masks compulsory in certain areas was the biggest fatal mistake the government made," he said.

The former army Nuclear, Biological and Chemical Warfare instructor said the army should have been involved with advising the Chief Health Officers, and the nation wouldn't be in the virus predicament it currently is.

"I was trained in the whole range, from simple things such as mites and bush bugs, all the way to biological, chemical and nuclear warfare, fallout, radiation and viruses," he said.

"The problem with viruses is they actually get inside the human cells and the problem is when the virus gets inside the body you need to kill the virus.

"Outside the body, all viruses require a host and if they can't find a host they die, and direct sunlight outside can kill a virus within minutes."

A study by Infectious Diseases Society of America in May, showed 90 per cent of the COVID-19 virus was killed in sunlight in 6.8 minutes.

"Viruses can only enter the body either through the eyes, the nose or the mouth, because all viruses get into the body through the respiratory function and are spread by the transmission of minute droplets from the host to another person," Mr Waldron said.


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As a vaccine isn't yet developed, Mr Waldron said the government should have taken some basic steps, as the army would have advised, to ensure the virus wasn't transmitted.

"First they should have locked down the national borders, so Australia's borders on the island that it is," he said.

"Secondly they should have made the wearing of face masks compulsory, depending on the circumstances and location.

"They could have left all the internal borders open, people would have been free to move around and go to work, if they wore masks where appropriate."

You don't need the most expensive mask, Mr Waldron said, for it to work.

"Face masks don't have to be any $50 sophisticated thing, they can be made out of something as simple as a tea towel or scarf," he said.

"They are a shield or a barrier to stop the transmission of the virus, through the minute droplets passed on by the host, into another person's respiratory system.

"They don't have to be complex at all, they just need to stop those virus carrying droplets."

Initial stories claiming wearing a mask was only benefical for people to stop spreading the virus were correct, Mr Waldron said, but there was one big problem.

"We just didn't know exactly who was infected," he said.

"So if it was compulsory to wear masks if we were in a population density of 1000 people per square kilometre, for example, it would have greatly reduced the transmission of the virus.

"That was the biggest fatal mistake that the government made.

"In other areas, where you're a farmer out in a paddock on a tractor by yourself, or out in the bush, you wouldn't need to wear a mask."

Quarantine measures should be strictly enforced, Mr Waldron said, so infected people can't come into contact with others.

"There needs to be strict security and it should be catered for so people have the essentials of life like food and water for the 14 days incubation period we have been advised of," he said.

"They just can't walk around, or get off a boat or a plane carrying the virus, it should have been strictly enforced."