Regional Victorians urged to follow masks rules

By Andrew Johnston

MASKS and face coverings will be mandatory for all Victorians from Monday.

Premier Daniel Andrews announced in his daily briefing on Thursday that from 11.59 pm on Sunday rules on masks and face coverings would cover the entire state.

Mr Andrews said the rules were being introduced to maintain low case numbers in regional Victoria.

"We have low numbers, and we want to jealously guard that,” he said.
"These are preventative steps, they're an abundance-of-caution approach, if you like.
"I understand this will a big step for some. But by covering your face, you’re protecting your community, and protecting those extra freedoms your community enjoys.

“By covering your face, you’re keeping local businesses open, and keeping local people in work.”

It comes as Victoria went through it's darkest day of the pandemic.

Thursday saw the largest spike recorded in the state, with 723 new cases recorded as well as 13 deaths.

Member for Murray Plains Peter Walsh urged all regional Victorians to comply with the direction.

“This might sound extreme, but just look at Thursday’s numbers, just look at the aged care sector debacle in Melbourne and just look around our community – this is a no-brainer,” he said.

“Regional Victorians have taken this very seriously from the word go, and still are, so I expect from Monday to see masks everywhere I turn.

“If not masks, then certainly face coverings, but I would strongly recommend people try and only use those with the highest health ratings because we want to ensure we stop this spreading any further than it currently has.”

Mr Walsh said while people should wear masks in public, he also urged residents to consider if they needed to leave the house at all.

“I would also appeal to everyone to once again limit their movements as much as possible. If you want to catch up with a friend, ring them.

“If you want to go out, ask yourself if it is essential. If you want to go shopping, check if the shop will home deliver — many of them are, or will.

“It is up to us to help stem the soaring numbers Melbourne is recording, we are the new frontline and the last place we want to see infections is in our retirement villages and amongst our older residents.”

Campaspe Shire Council chief executive Declan Moore said it was hoped community members would continue to do the right thing.

“Throughout the pandemic we have continued to respond to the directions from government and the chief health officer,” he said.

“Today’s announcement to wear face coverings are to stop the virus seeping into regional Victoria and to ensure the safety of all Victorians.

“We would encourage our community to keep up the good work, follow directions as they are announced, to ensure we can reduce the number of community transmissions to keep our family, friends and the wider community safe.”

The Department of Health and Human Services has listed a number of exemptions from wearing masks, including for those under the age of 12, people with a medical exemption, those undertaking strenuous exercise, or when travelling in a vehicle alone or with other members of your household.
Impacts on schools

Rules on masks will also directly impact schools within the area, with the Department of Education and Training saying all students over the age of 12 will be required to wear a mask outside of primary school.

"Students who attend primary school will not be required to wear a face covering,” a statement posted on Echuca East Primary School's Facebook page said.
"Students who are aged 12 or over by Year 6 will not be required to wear face coverings.
"Teachers and education support staff will not be required to wear face coverings while teaching, but those who wish to do so, can.
"Teachers should wear face coverings in other areas of the school when not teaching (for example, in the staff room, on yard duty and when providing first aid or taking temperatures), and when travelling to and from school.
"Consistent with all those 12 and over, parents/carers will be required to wear face coverings whenever they leave the house, including for school drop off and pick up.
"If they are travelling in a car alone, or only with members of their household, they do not need to wear a mask."
Where can I buy a mask?

A number of businesses across Echuca will continue to sell masks.

Cadell Food Services’ Colin Hanley said there was no reason for panic.

“Companies were prepared for this,” he said.

“We've spoken to our suppliers, there is more than enough masks out there. They will be coming and no-one will run out.”

Companies currently selling masks include Cheap as Chips, Cadell Food Services, Big W, Rich River First Aid, Bunnings and the Post Office.

Chemist Warehouse is currently out of stock, however businesses can make contact and submit orders for their own establishments.

Amcal Pharmacy, Coles and The Sweet Meadow are anticipating stock deliveries in coming days, while Woolworths is awaiting confirmation on its next shipment.

Bloom by Bee is continuing to work through orders, but has requested patience.

Molato by Nicole has requested no further orders be placed due to a shortage of supply, but will advise by its Facebook page when further stock is available.

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