Victorian premier Dan Andrews has announced that face masks will be mandatory in Melbourne from Thursday, after Victoria reported 363 new coronavirus cases overnight.
“People living in metropolitan Melbourne and Mitchell Shire and will now be required to wear a face covering when leaving home for one of the four reasons,” Andrews said.
Currently, people in areas under stage-three lockdown must stay at home unless shopping for food and other essential supplies; to exercise (ideally in their local area); to study or work (if you cannot do so from home); and for caregiving and compassionate reasons.
“We’re urging Victorians – just as you remember to take your keys when you leave the house, you need to remember to take something to cover your face, to help keep you and our community safe.”
“But for those who can, please start wearing yours immediately,” Andrews said. “It’s a relatively simple thing, but it’s also about embedding behaviour – which I think is just as important on the other side of this second wave as it is in bringing case numbers down.
“We’re going to be wearing masks in Victoria, and potentially in other parts of the country, for a very long time.”
There’ll be some exemptions. Masks will be mandatory in schools, but teachers may choose not to wear one for ease of communication while teaching. Those who have a medical reason will also be exempt, as will children under 12, and “those who have a professional reason – or if it’s just not practical, like when running,” Andrews said. Another example: masks won’t be required on entering a bank, though you’ll need to wear one travelling and from the bank. More details regarding exemptions will be announced later this week.
The premier also confirmed that any face covering – such as a scarf or another homemade approach – will do, and that masks do not need to be hospital grade.
Those found in breach of the new regulations will face a $200 fine.
“Whilst a mask or a face covering will be of benefit, it doesn’t mean that we can be shaking hands again. It doesn’t mean that we can be closer than 1.5 metres apart. It doesn’t mean hand hygiene is any less important,” Andrews said.
“It doesn’t mean any of us can be any less vigilant when it comes to all those common sense things – washing your hands, cough etiquette, keeping your distance, and only going out for the things you need when you need them – and seeing those rules as a guide, not an invitation to go and do things that you really don’t need to do.”
The government has “the best part” of three million masks on order, and around 300,000 are expected to arrive this week. Details on distribution of those masks, including who will be eligible to receive one, are still to come.
Victoria’s State of Emergency, which was due to expire on July 19, has now been extended to 11.59pm on August 16.
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