News

Masks recommended when social distancing is not possible

By David Rak

Mitchell Shire residents are being urged to wear face masks in situations where physical distancing is not possible to help slow the spread of coronavirus in the community.

Premier Daniel Andrews announced the new recommendations from chief health officer Brett Sutton following new evidence from global medical experts and increased community transmission in Victoria.

Victoria recorded 420 new cases at the weekend, taking the state’s total to 3799 since the beginning of the pandemic.

Mitchell Shire has 11 active cases and Strathbogie Shire has none.

The death toll is now 24 after a man in his 70s and a man in his 90s died from the virus at the weekend.

The Victorian Government will order more than two million reusable masks and one million single-use masks to ensure more Victorians have access to this added protection while also boosting local manufacturing capability.

Studies have recently shown that, even when factoring in imperfections and human error, wearing face masks can reduce transmission of coronavirus by about 60 per cent.

Before this study, advice around the effectiveness of face masks in reducing transmission had been contradictory and lacking in evidence.

Prof Sutton recommends anyone living in Melbourne or Mitchell Shire wear a face covering or cloth mask when leaving home for one of the four permitted reasons where it is not possible to maintain a distance of at least 1.5 metres from other people.

These recommendations apply to adults over the age of 18, recognising both the lower transmission and disease severity in younger people, but also the difficulty in getting children to wear a face mask properly.

The recommendation does not apply to wearing masks in schools and early childhood settings.

Anyone who needs to enter an area under stage three restrictions should follow this advice.

This is a health recommendation only and will not be enforced. People will not be fined for not wearing a face mask.

The order for two million reusable face masks will be placed by the end of July.

To bridge the gap while local manufacturing ramps up, a million single-use masks will also be ordered, favouring Victorian manufacturers to provide a much-needed boost for local jobs.

Further work will be undertaken this week to determine the best method for distributing the face masks across Victoria, ensuring those who are most vulnerable are given priority consideration.

Consultation will also occur with union and industry groups about whether the advice around face masks in the workplace needs to be updated.

Face masks provide an added layer of protection but the best ways to reduce the transmission of coronavirus remain the same – good hand hygiene, cough and sneeze etiquette and keeping a physical distance of 1.5 m.

Mr Andrews said Prof Sutton had given clear advice that wearing face masks made a tangible difference when it came to reducing the transmission of coronavirus in the community.

Health Minister Jenny Mikakos said the state government had always relied on the advice of experts when it came to the pandemic.

“At this stage the advice only applies to people in the metropolitan Melbourne and Mitchell Shire area where physical distancing is not possible, but wearing a mask is an added protection that anyone can choose to take, no matter where they live,” she said.

Victoria has 1484 active cases of the virus and 2289 people have recovered. More than 1,125,400 tests have been processed since the pandemic began.

There are 57 people with COVID-19 in hospital, with 16 in intensive care.

People with symptoms of COVID-19 can be tested at Seymour Health from 9 am to 3 pm, seven days a week. Appointments can be booked by phoning 0436 345 573.

For information about coronavirus, visit coronavirus.vic.gov.au or phone 1800 675 398.