Face masks to help fight coronavirus

Victorians living in metro Melbourne and Mitchell Shire are now recommended to wear face masks in situations where they are leaving their home and physical distancing is not possible.

The new recommendations from the Chief Health Officer apply from today, following new evidence from global medical experts and increased community transmission in Victoria.

The Victorian Government will order over two million reusable masks and one million more single-use masks to ensure more Victorians have access to this added protection while also boosting local manufacturing capability.

Studies have recently shown that, even when factoring in imperfections and human error, wearing face masks can reduce transmission of coronavirus by around 60 per cent. Before this study, advice around the effectiveness of face masks in reducing transmission has been contradictory and lacking in evidence.

Victoria’s Chief Health Officer has now updated his advice to recommend  anyone living in metro Melbourne or Mitchell Shire to wear a face covering or cloth mask when leaving home for one of the four permitted reasons – where it is not possible to maintain a distance of at least 1.5 metres from other people.

These recommendations apply to adults over the age of 18, recognising both the lower transmission and disease severity in younger people, but also the difficulty in getting children to wear a face mask properly. The recommendation does not apply to wearing masks in schools and early childhood settings.

Anyone who lives outside metropolitan Melbourne and Mitchell Shire should follow the same advice if they need to enter an area currently under Stage 3 Stay at Home restrictions.

This is a health recommendation only and will not be enforced – people will not be fined for not wearing a face mask.

The order for two million reusable face masks will be placed by the end of July. To bridge the gap while local manufacturing ramps up, a million single-use masks will also be ordered, favouring Victorian manufacturers to provide a much-needed boost for local jobs.

Further work will be undertaken this week to determine the best method for distributing the face masks across Victoria, ensuring those who are most vulnerable are given priority consideration.

Consultation will also occur with union and industry groups about whether the advice around face masks in the workplace needs to also be updated.

Face masks provide an added layer of protection, but the best ways to reduce the transmission of coronavirus are through good hand hygiene, cough and sneeze etiquette and keeping a physical distance of 1.5 metres.