Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews has taken a swipe at “disappointing” criticism of his order making masks compulsory in the state’s virus crisis.
Victoria had another bleak day in its ongoing COVID outbreak on Tuesday, confirming 374 more cases – its 16th day on end of triple-digit increases and its second highest daily tally from the pandemic yet.
Mr Andrews also confirmed the deaths of three women – one each in their 80s, 90s and 100s – taking the state’s COVID toll to 42. Australia’s national toll is 126.
From midnight on Wednesday, Melburnians aged over 12 will be required to wear masks or face coverings when they leave their house for one of just four reasons permitted during the six-week lockdown.
People in country Victoria – where coronavirus infections are growing by the day – are also urged to wear masks if they visit the city, or are in situations where they cannot ensure social distancing.
Mr Andrews announced the mask order on Sunday, spurring the sale of millions of masks in Melbourne within hours. On Tuesday, he said he was encouraged by how many Melburnians residing in the lockdown zones across Greater Melbourne and the Mitchell Shire who were already wearing masks when they left home.
“It is heartening to see so many people listening to those messages, changing their normal habits and embedding mask and face covering-wearing as part of just the normal daily routine,” he said.
“It’s a small thing, but again – a bit like coming forward and getting tested – it makes a significant contribution.”
But. the order has sparked fierce criticism from opposition politicians and online, including from News Corp columnist Andrew Bolt.
Celebrity chef Pete Evans shared – and later deleted – a Facebook post – of “free legal advice” that “was sent to me”, telling fans “Don’t wear a mask”.
A Sydney law firm also shared and deleted a similar post – “at the request of the NSW Law Society”.
“It’s a bit disappointing to see a bit of commentary around the place about [it] being civil disobedience,” Mr Andrews said.
“Nurses and doctors, who might well end up treating you, they wear masks. So let’s thank them for them for wearing a mask as we go out and about for the four lawful reasons.”
Mr Andrews also urged Melburnians to keep getting tested at high rates [there were 29,464 tests conducted on Monday alone], and to stay home while waiting for the results.
It came as scores of venues in eastern Victorian towns near the NSW border were forced to close after a person from Melbourne reportedly visited the region at the weekend and then subsequently tested positive.
“No one can simply pretend that it’s OK to go to regional Victoria, for instance, while you’re waiting for a test result,” Mr Andrews said.
“Whether you had a test result coming or not, there’s no need to be going to the far east of the state, for instance – that does no one any good at all.”
Victoria now has 3078 active COVID-19 cases and 174 people in hospital, 36 in intensive care. Despite the huge rise, and the growing toll, there are early signs the Melbourne-wide lockdown is beginning to have an effect.
“It’s always challenging to analyse any one day’s results, you’d like to see numbers coming down,” Mr Andrews said.
“At the end of the day, we’re not seeing the doubling and doubling again.
“What that says to me … is that the sorts of measures we have put in place are having a direct impact.”
Victoria’s chief health officer Brett Sutton said community transmission did appear to be slowing.
“We have seen some stabilisation in some postcodes especially the postcodes where there have been restrictions for a long period of time,” Professor Sutton said.
“There are other postcodes where the restrictions for stage three have been in place for almost two weeks, but that’s not as long as some of the other postcodes that are destabilising, so I’m still hopeful that we can see some levelling off in decreasing numbers in those areas.”
Victoria’s clusters – update
New outbreaks were identifed in Melbourne aged-care facilities on Tuesday.
Iris Manor in Ashburton and Mercy Place in Parkville had single virus cases, while two infections were linked to Epping Gardens Aged Care.
There are also 169 active cases in Victorian healthcare workers.
In other outbreaks:
- 175 cases are linked to Al-Taqwa College, Truganina
- 60 linked to Somerville Retail Services, Tottenham
- 13, Australian Lamb Company, Colac
- 38, JBS, Brooklyn
- 42, Estia Health, Ardeer
- 51, St Basil’s Homes for the Aged, Fawkner
- 15, Woolworths Distribution Centre, Mulgrave
- 31, Glendale Aged Care, Werribee
- Nine, Melbourne City Mission, Albion
- 15, St Vincent’s Hospital, East Melbourne
- 24, Royal Melbourne Hospital, Royal Park campus
- 17, Embracia Aged Care Moonee Valley, Avondale Heights