The advice about face masks in Victoria will change from a recommendation to an order on Thursday.
Almost everyone in metropolitan Melbourne and Mitchell Shire will have to cover their face when they leave the house or face a $200 fine.
There are a few exceptions and you don’t have to rush out and buy hundreds of disposable masks.
Here are the dos and don’ts of wearing masks in Victoria.
How do you wear a mask?
The most important thing is that the mask or face covering covers your mouth and nose and is snug.
Not your forehead or your chin – it needs to cover your airways.
Make sure there are no holes in the mask.
Don’t touch the outside of the mask and make sure you wash your hands thoroughly before you put it on and after you take it off.
If you wear glasses or have a beard there are a few tips and tricks to make sure your mask is fitted properly.
For single-use surgical masks, make sure the coloured side is facing outward, make sure there are no tears or holes, and if there’s a metallic strip at the top of the mask make sure it’s positioned against the bridge of your nose.
The Victorian government also has a thorough guide on how to correctly wear different types of masks.
Where can I buy a mask?
Surgical, N95 and P2 masks are being sold at chemists and even dollar stores all over Melbourne.
You can also order them online – just make sure you are buying them from a reputable source.
However, the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) has recommended people not use P2 or N95 masks outside of healthcare settings.
This is likely because frontline workers are most in need of them.
There are a number of people also making and selling home-made masks, which you can also try making yourself.
The DHHS recommends cloth masks are of washable fabric and three layers of a mix of breathable fabrics “to ensure adequate protection”.
Will the government provide the masks?
About three million reusable masks are on order by the state government, with about 300,000 arriving this week.
More information about priority groups being supplied those masks will be provided later this week.
Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews said it was likely older people would be first in line for a mask and would be able to collect one from a local GP clinic.
Will a mask stop me catching coronavirus?
No, and that’s important to remember.
Fears they create a false sense of security was one of the main reasons authorities delayed recommending masks in the first place.
However, chief health officer Brett Sutton said recent evidence showed that wearing a mask “makes a practical difference”.
“So just following people who wear masks and the settings in which masks are worn has shown that there’s a really significant – two-thirds or more – reduction in transmission,” he said.
Wearing a mask helps reduce respiratory droplets spreading from person to person, but on its own it’s not a bulletproof solution.
It’s still important to stay 1.5 metres from others around you whenever possible.
The more people in groups, such as at a supermarket, who wear a mask, the more protection there will be for everyone.
Why are masks mandatory now?
Wearing masks was previously just a recommendation, but Professor Sutton said authorities want to drive down cases quickly.
“Whether it’s zero transmission, or just getting down to single figures, we want to do that in as fast a time as possible,” he said.
“And mandating is just one of those additional pushes that will get it to universal coverage much faster.”
The measure is also being introduced in response to the virus spreading at work – authorities believe about 80 per cent of the state’s new cases since mid-May have been driven by workplace transmission.
The Premier said it was a “relatively simple” measure that would help slow the spread of the virus.
“Most of us wouldn’t leave home without our keys, we wouldn’t leave our home without our mobile phone – you won’t be able to leave home without your mask,” he said.
What are the exceptions for adults?
By now, most people are aware the rules apply to everyone 12 years old and over.
The rules also include people from outside the lockdown zone who visit Melbourne or Mitchell Shire.
If you’re out doing vigorous exercise you don’t have to wear a mask, but you need to carry one with you and put it on when you stop.
“Strenuous exercise includes activities like jogging, running or cycling but not walking,” the official DHHS advice says.
You can use a surgical mask, a reusable cloth mask or you can make one. Or if you don’t have one, you can use a scarf or bandana to cover your nose & mouth. Wash your hands before putting it on & after taking it off. How to make a mask here: https://t.co/RWNMHvbKL5 #springst
— Jenny Mikakos MP #StayHomeSaveLives (@JennyMikakos) July 19, 2020
People with medical conditions where it may be hard for them to breathe while wearing a mask, or people who find it difficult to put on and remove a mask due to physical disabilities, also do not have to wear one.
If you’re going to places where you need to be identified, such as the bank, you don’t have to wear one, but make sure you wear it to and from where you’re going.
If in doubt, carry one in your pocket and wear it whenever practical.
Do children have to wear a mask?
Any child under 12 does not have to wear a mask, including if they’re at school.
Professor Sutton said children under two years should not be wearing one and it’s a “consideration” for all other children.
“But it is mandatory, really, from that high school age onwards,” he said.
Which means all children 12 and over must wear a mask outside, including to and from school and in the classroom, where practical.
How to mask 😷
Struggling to find a cloth face mask by Wednesday?
Cutting up a sock not working out?
No sewing skills or equipment?
Use a scarf & turn it into a (four layered) face mask in 30 seconds.
Additional benefit of keeping your neck warm
Share if you think this helps pic.twitter.com/jBMr1Vsh59
— Nisha Khot #MaskUp #BLM (@Nishaobgyn) July 19, 2020
Why shouldn’t my baby wear a mask?
According to the DHHS, children under two years old should not wear a mask, due to the risk of choking.
A clear face shield could be an option, but they must be properly designed to cover the sides of the face and below the chin, health department advice states.
However, the Centres for Disease Control in the US recommends infants do not wear face shields.
Should I wear a mask in a car?
If you’re driving your car solo or with someone from your household, you don’t have to wear your mask.
But you must have one on you to put on when you get out.
If you’re catching an Uber or a taxi you must wear one.
We have translated our @VictorianCHO video about face masks into 14 different languages. Please help us spread the word by sharing this playlist with your networks https://t.co/qRAYdiVjtW #CALD #COVID19Vic
— VicGovDHHS (@VicGovDHHS) July 18, 2020