10 May 2023

Communities caught out by mask mandate

| Matt Nicholls
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Despite no COVID-19 cases in Cape York since the start of the pandemic, the remote region was placed on the same mask-wearing restrictions as the rest of the state.

Weipa Town Authority chair Michael Rowland said the snap decision caught them off guard, although the response was fairly quick.

“Once word spread people were pretty much across it and had masks on at the shops,” he said.

“Woolies were handing out free masks to people so they could do their shopping.”

The WTA also purchased a large order of masks to hand out for free and local residents can drop in to the town office to collect a mask, should they need one.

Mr Rowland admitted that he couldn’t make sense of the decision to enforce mask wearing in remote areas such as Cape York.

“We didn’t have to wear masks at the height of the pandemic and we’re a long way from Brisbane,” he said.

Mask wearing in Queensland will at this stage remain until April 15, Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said on Thursday.

Rio Tinto Weipa was quick to respond to the COVID cases in the south-east corner, cancelling last week’s charter flight from Brisbane to Weipa.

The Alliance plane flew empty to Weipa so passengers here could return home.

The mining company also made an immediate increase to COVID-19 PPE controls across all operations as per the state government guidelines.

A spokesperson said Rio Tinto had an adequate supply of disposable masks for all employees across site with more masks ordered to ensure supply.

The miner also donated 1000 masks to Weipa Hospital given the rapid timeframe associated with the lockdown.

“Additional screening measures were implemented for employees in Weipa or Amrun that had travelled from the greater Brisbane region since March 20, including antigen testing and self-isolation,” a spokesperson said.

“Following the premier’s announcement regarding the easing of lockdown conditions, charter flights scheduled to travel to Weipa from Brisbane will recommence.

Passengers must demonstrate compliance with government requirements and undertake antigen screening processes prior to boarding until further notice.

Rio Tinto bauxite operations general manager Michelle Elvy, said: “Keeping our workforce and the community safe continues to remain our top priority and we will continue to react quickly and proactively to ensure we keep Weipa and the broader Cape free from the risk of COVID transmission”.


YOU must carry a face mask with you at all times when you leave home, unless you have a lawful reason not to.

You must wear a mask in indoor spaces, such as:

 Shopping centres, supermarkets, retail outlets and indoor markets;

 Hospitals and aged care facilities;

 Hospitality venues such as restaurants and cafés (not required for patrons while seated; customer-facing staff only);

 Churches and places of worship;

 Libraries;

 Indoor recreational facilities and gym (except if doing strenuous exercise);

 Indoor workplaces (where safe to wear a mask and you can’t physically distance);

 Public transport, taxis and rideshare, and waiting places or queues for this transport;

 Airports and travelling on planes.

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