PEOPLE in regional areas are now being advised to cover noses and mouths if they cannot maintain physical distancing, prompting a rush on masks in pharmacies and other outlets.
Regional Victorians will not be fined for not wearing masks when out and about locally, but those in the lockdown areas of Melbourne and the Mitchell Shire will.
From 11.59pm Wednesday, people who live in these areas must wear “face coverings” when they leave home – including when travelling into regional Victoria.
People whose principal place of residence is under stage three restrictions who cross the boundary into regional Victoria for work or care reasons must cover their mouth and nose for the entirety of their visit.
Country people who need to travel into the restricted area also must wear masks at all times during their stay.
Melburnians must wear face masks when undertaking one of the four reasons permissible to leave their homes (shopping for food and essential items, care and caregiving, daily exercise, and work and study – if not possible from home).
Those who ignore this recommendation can face fines of $200 after 11.59pm Wednesday, after the Chief Health Officer escalated the recommendation to a directive.
There are a few exceptions to the new mandatory face mask rule – children aged under 12, those who have a professional or medical reason, or if it’s just not practical, like when undertaking strenuous exercise.
Metropolitan teachers will not have to wear masks while teaching, but students attending for VCE, VCAL or for onsite supervision will – and all attendees are expected to wear them on the way to and from school.
Announced on Sunday, the four-day warning before the new face mask rule is implemented is to give people a chance to buy or make coverings, but those who already have them have been encouraged to wear them immediately.
Premier Daniel Andrews reminded Victorians that they should not be looking for loopholes, and instead do something small to keep everyone else safe.
“If I’m wearing a covering, I’m helping to protect you,” he said.
“If you’re wearing one, you’re helping to protect me.
“… it’s one of those things where the more people do it, the exponentially bigger that difference becomes.
“And if we all wear one, we’re all doing our bit to slow the spread.”
The new announcement comes as Victoria’s COVID-19 community transmission numbers climb into the thousands, with just under 3000 active cases and 38 deaths across the state.