Thursday, September 24, 2020

Face coverings to be mandatory across all Victoria

SUNRAYSIA residents have been urged to wear masks to help local businesses stay open.

From next week, all Victorians -- including those in regional areas -- will be required by law to wear a mask or other face covering when leaving home.

Premier Daniel Andrews announced the change after the state added 723 coronavirus cases, a new daily record.

The mask requirement, which followed advice from the Chief Health Officer, takes effect at 11.59pm on Sunday.

"I understand this will a big step for some," Mr Andrews said.

"But by covering your face, you're protecting your community and protecting those extra freedoms your community enjoys.

"By covering your face, you're keeping local businesses open and keeping local people in work."

Mr Andrews said it was "vital" the virus was stopped from spreading further into regional communities.

He said face coverings, which could be as simple as a scarf, provided a significant public health benefit "without causing significant economic cost".

Visitors to restaurants would not need to wear a covering while seated, but would need to wear one while not seated, Mr Andrews said.

Exemptions apply to children under 12, people with relevant medical conditions and people doing strenuous exercise.

Children two years or younger should not wear face coverings as they are a choking and suffocation risk.

Face coverings need to be worn at work if there are multiple people onsite, regardless of whether there is social distancing, although OH&S guidelines may provide some exemptions.

Employers found to be discouraging masks reportedly faced fines of $9913.

People who refuse to wear a mask outdoors can be fined $200 by Victoria Police.

Member for Mildura Ali Cupper supported the measure, which she said would play a role in keeping the electorate, which did not have a confirmed active case, virus-free.

"This is a very small impost that could ultimately have huge benefits in keeping us safe, so I would urge everyone to remain calm and accept this is the reality for the time being," Ms Cupper said.

The Department of Health and Human Services advised Victorians that keeping 1.5 metres between themselves and others, and washing their hands, remained the best defences against the coronavirus.

But masks and face coverings were recommended as an additional physical barrier.

There were 255 active cases in regional Victoria as of Thursday's update.