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Here's When and Where You Have to Wear a Face Mask Under Melbourne's New Public Health Order

Unless you're exempt, you'll need a face covering when leaving the house, or risk a $200 fine.
By Libby Curran
July 23, 2020
By Libby Curran
July 23, 2020

Overnight, the Victorian Government's latest public health directive came into effect, making face masks mandatory for those living in metropolitan Melbourne and Mitchell Shire. While the two regions have been in Stage 3 lockdown since July 7, residents are now required to don a protective face covering whenever they leave home for one of the four government-approved reasons: for work or school (if you can't do this from home), for care or care giving, for daily exercise or for food and other essentials.

As of 11.59pm yesterday, Wednesday, July 22, anyone over the age of 12 must follow the new face covering rule, or risk being hit with a $200 fine. The change was announced three days earlier at Premier Daniel Andrews' press conference, to give people some time to stock up on masks or alternatives. But it's also thrown up a bunch of questions for locals who now have to worry about a brand-new accessory whenever they venture out their front door. Are there any exemptions? What actually counts as a face covering? What the heck is the point? We've broken it down.


What exactly is a face mask and why do I need to wear one?

The Department of Health and Human Services has published a handy info sheet online that leads by saying: "A face covering needs to cover both your nose and mouth. It could be a face mask or shield." It doesn't need to be medical grade and you can make your own — from paper, scarves and old clothes — but we'll get to that in detail shortly.

According to the Department, face coverings add an extra physical barrier between people, by limiting the spread of water droplets released by coughing, sneezing and talking. You should continue to follow social distancing guidelines and hygiene measures, too.

Who has to wear one? And when?

Everyone that lives in metropolitan Melbourne or Mitchell Shire must wear a face covering when leaving their home. Under the current stay-at-home orders, which are set to be in place until Wednesday, August 19, you can only leave home for one of the four aforementioned reasons. When you do leave home, you must stay as local as you can — and visit your closest park, cafe, bottle shop, for example — and not travel across town.

So, when you do leave home for allowed activities like buying groceries at the supermarket, going for a walk and grabbing a takeaway coffee you must wear a mask at all times, and the people working at those places should be masked-up, too. Phone, keys, wallet, mask — that's your new mantra.

In what situations do I not need to wear one?

Exemptions to the face mask rule apply to those with a relevant medical condition, those communicating with someone who is hearing impaired, kids under 12 and people whose job requires them to have clear enunciation or a visible mouth, such as teachers and live broadcasters. People are also exempt in instances when wearing a mask could cause OH&S issues.

As for everyone else, there might be certain circumstances where you can go mask-free, though you'll still need to carry one with you at all times, ready for use, or risk copping a fine. For example, you're allowed to remove your face covering while eating or drinking, but you'll need to reapply it straight after. The same deal goes for people smoking or vaping.

You can ditch the mask when driving in a car alone or with other members of your household, though you'll likely need to pop it on when you reach your destination. Those working from home can also do so without a face covering, unless caring for someone in their house that has COVID-19.

Even when I'm exercising?

If you're getting in a jog, or any exercise that leaves you out of breath or puffing, you can do so without a mask on your face. However, you'll need to have one on you to wear before and after the strenuous bit. According to the DHHS, walking doesn't fit the above category and requires a face covering to be worn at all times, even if you're social distancing.

What should I do if I don't have a mask?

If you don't have a legit face mask, you can use something like a bandana or scarf as an alternative. Or, get crafty and make your own version — the DHHS has handy instructions for whipping up a DIY mask here. There are also a stack of retailers and online stores selling both disposable and reusable options, many of which will deliver to your door. You can check out some we found here.

Need some guidance on wearing the mask? The WHO has released a series of videos and infographics showing how to properly wear a mask, and covering the dos and don'ts.

What happens if I go outside without a mask?

If you don't have a valid reason for not wearing one, you could be slapped with a $200 fine.

For more information about wearing face masks, and the Victorian Government's advice for metro Melbourne and Mitchell Shire residents, head to the Victorian Department of Health and Human Services website.

Published on July 23, 2020 by Libby Curran


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