Woolworths customers in virus hotspots in Queensland, NSW and the ACT have been urged to wear masks while they are shopping in-store.
The retailer said it would “strongly encourage” customers at its supermarkets, metro food stores, BIG Ws, Dan Murphy’s, BWS and ALH Hotels in Queensland hotspots to wear masks from Friday (July 31)
The same rules will apply to customers in NSW and the ACT from Monday (August 3).
In Victoria, where masks will be mandatory across the entire state from Sunday, Woolworths has said it will turn away anyone who does not have a mask.
“Even though wearing a face covering is not mandatory in NSW, ACT or Queensland, as the largest private sector employer with stores in almost every community, we feel it’s important we lead the way in helping reduce community transmission of COVID-19,” chief executive Brad Banducci said.
“Masks and face coverings are a highly visible symbol of the persistence of COVID-19.”
Woolworths staff, including its executives, will also be required to wear masks for the foreseeable future.
But customers outside Victoria won’t be turned away if they don’t have a mask.
“Customers have the choice. If they don’t [wear a mask], then that’s fine, they are welcome in our stores,” Mr Banducci said.
However, they will still be asked to follow social distancing measures and use in-store hand sanitiser dispensers.
Earlier, deputy chief medical officer Michael Kidd said all Australians – not just those in virus-hit Victoria – should consider wearing masks to protect themselves from COVID-19.
Dr Kidd said every Australian should “absolutely” consider a mask out in public.
“I think people should be considering wearing masks, but particularly in those areas where we have community transmission,” he told the ABC on Friday.
NSW has not yet enforced mask use in public, but residents are urged to wear one when social distancing isn’t possible.
Virgin Australia said this week it had started distributing face masks and sanitiser wipes to passengers departing NSW. It planned to introduce the measure across its entire network within days.
Professor Kidd has written an opinion article on the benefits of wearing masks to limit the spread of COVID-19, noting it should be done in conjunction with physical distancing.
“Physical distancing is still the most effective way we have to stop COVID-19 from spreading – even among people wearing masks. And the wearing of a mask doesn’t mean you can stop practising good hand hygiene,” he wrote this week.
“A mask can help to prevent the person wearing it from contracting COVID-19, and stop someone else from becoming infected.”
Meanwhile, Victoria Police said on Friday they had fined a further 53 people for breaching coronavirus orders by refusing to wear masks.
Police issued 124 fines in the 24 hours to Friday morning, including the mask refusers.
Police also did 5068 spot checks on people at homes, businesses and public places across the state.
Those fined include three men from suburban Clayton having lunch in the CBD, 12 people gathered around a fire at Frankston and five men meeting at a reserve in Casey to drink alcohol.