As of midnight on Wednesday, everyone in metropolitan Melbourne and Mitchell Shire must wear masks. Image by James Ross/AAP PHOTOS

Health

Masks important to halt Vic virus surge

2020-07-23 19:20:30

Supermarkets will take a hard line with customers when masks become compulsory in Victoria’s coronavirus lockdown campaign.

As of midnight on Wednesday, everyone in Victoria’s lockdown regions of metropolitan Melbourne and Mitchell Shire must wear masks when they are outdoors.

They risk a $200 fine for not following the new rule, while people in regional Victoria are also being encouraged to wear masks as a precaution.

Woolworths, Coles, Aldi, FoodWorks and IGA all feature in an advertisement about the new measure.

“We expect all customers to be wearing a face covering in our stores, unless a lawful exception applies to you,” the ad reads.

“Masks have also become compulsory for our team members, unless they too have an exception.”

Premier Daniel Andrews said on Wednesday that supermarkets are an excellent example of why masks are necessary, as Victoria tries to reduce the rate of transmission.

Wednesday’s figure of 484 new cases is an unwanted record and continues a run of triple-digit days that started on July 6.

Given supermarkets are indoors and they have so many customers, health experts are particularly worried about community transmission.

“That’s exactly the sort of setting where wearing masks will be critically important,” Mr Andrews said.

“For the safety of their staff, for the safety of other customers, and to keep stores open … you need to wear a mask if you’re going to the supermarket.

“And you may well be turned away if you turn up … and you don’t have a mask on.”

The premier also scoffed at reports of people selling masks for use by babies or toddlers.

Children under 12 do not have to wear masks.

“That is simply not on. Toddlers should not be wearing masks,” he said.

“Do not buy those products.”

Mr Andrews acknowledged the debate about mask exemptions and he feels Victoria has the balance right.

Victorian Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton also said people should be careful about calling others to account about not wearing masks in public.

“A number … are legitimately not able to wear masks so please don’t vilify individuals or don’t make the assumption they are simply stubborn,” Prof Sutton said.

“There will be people with medical, behavioural, psychological reasons … certainly don’t make an assumption that they should be the subject of your ire.”