Sunday morning saw Victoria tally another three deaths and 363 fresh coronavirus cases – taking the state’s death toll to 38 and upping the national total to 122 – thus forcing Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews to make yet another announcement in a bid to bring COVID-19 case numbers down.
Wearing masks will be made compulsory for people out in public in coronavirus-hit Melbourne and the adjacent Mitchell Shire from 11:59pm on Wednesday.
“If you are out of your home for one of the four reasons, then you need to be wearing a mask and I stress – or a face covering – it need not be a hospital grade mask, it need not be one of the handmade masks,” the Premier said on Sunday.
“Any face covering is better than no face-covering.”
In metropolitan Melbourne and the Mitchell Shire, everyone over the age of 12 needs to wear a mask or face covering when they leave their house for one of the four allowed reasons – study or work (if you cannot do so from home), medical care and caregiving, shopping for essentials and daily exercise.
There are exceptions to this rule for people with a medical reason; children under 12 years of age, or 12 year-olds attending primary school; for professional reasons because it stops you doing your job, for example working in a call centre; and practical reasons like when you go for a run. Individuals, however, will need to carry a mask with them.
It will not be a requirement for people working in childcare, nor for teachers while teaching but students there for VCE, VCAL or for onsite supervision will.
This new rule applies to everyone in these areas, including people who live outside these areas but are visiting for one of the permitted reasons, and residents in impacted areas of Victoria caught out without a face covering face a $200 fine.
“There’s no vaccine to this wildly infectious virus and it’s a simple thing, but it’s about changing habits, it’s about becoming a simple part of your routine.
Victoria’s Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton says universal mask wearing is important because an infected person wearing a mask sheds less of the virus and people around them are less exposed.
Up to three million face masks are on order by the Victorian government with a batch of 300,000 due to arrive this week, however who will be eligible to receive these masks will be announced later this week.
Currently there are store-bought cloth and surgical masks on the market, with a rise in home-makers selling their wares online. Mr Andrews says a mask or scarf will do in cases where you might not have access to a face mask.
“It need not be a hospital-grade mask. It need not be one of the handmade masks … It can be a scarf, it can be a homemade mask,” Mr Andrews said.
He admits “nothing is perfect” and a “face covering is just as good”.
The Victorian Government has even released information about how to make and what to use to make a face mask for those who cannot purchase one.
As for regional Victoria, face coverings continue to be recommended in situations where maintaining 1.5 metres distance is not possible.
Alongside the new face mask measures, the State of Emergency has been extended until 11.59pm on August 16.
If you’re looking for a face mask locally in Geelong, we’ve put together a little list here.