FACE MASK UPDATE – WHAT TO CONSIDER, RISKS AND SAFETY RECOMMENDATIONS
People who have symptoms and might be infected with COVID-19 are required to stay in isolation at home and should wear a surgical or cloth face mask when in the same room as another person or when seeking medical advice, to reduce the risk of transmitting COVID-19 to anyone else.
If you are in an area where community transmission of COVID-19 is occurring, you may be asked to wear a face mask when you leave your home. Wearing a face mask is strongly recommended outdoors when you can’t keep 1.5 metres distance from other people.
In some states and territories, wearing a face mask may become mandatory for periods of time and/or in certain public places. Facemask exemptions do apply in each state and territory for people affected by a medical or mental health condition or disability that makes wearing a mask unsuitable. It is important to stay across the advice for your area by checking your state health government website regularly.
You can find tips to ease into wearing a face-covering here
Face masks remain mandatory at all times in the following situations:
- at Queensland airports (indoor and outdoor areas)
- during a domestic commercial flight
- if you are arriving to Queensland from overseas or from a COVID-19 hotspot, you must wear a face mask while travelling from the airport until you reach your allocated room in your quarantine accommodation
- if you are a driver of a bus, coach service, taxi or rideshare transporting a person required to quarantine.
There are some exemtions to wearing a face mask, including:
- children under 12
- a person eating, drinking or taking medicine
- where visibility of the mouth is essential
- where a mask needs to be removed to clearly communicate
- a person with a particular medical condition or disability
- a person undergoing medical treatment
- if a person is asked to remove a face mask for identity purposes
- if wearing a mask creates a risk to a person’s health and safety
- for emergencies or when allowed by law
- in any circumstances when it’s not safe to wear a mask.
For more information on mandatory face coverings, including exemptions, in Queensland please visit the Queensland Government’s COVID-19 website
New South Wales
In Greater Sydney (including Wollongong, Central Coast and Blue Mountains) face masks are mandatory on public transport including taxis and rideshare services.
Face masks must be worn indoors at all NSW airports and on domestic commercial flights into or out of NSW, including when the flight is landing at or taking off from the airport.
Children 12 years and under are exempt but are encouraged to wear masks where practicable.
Masks should not be worn by:
- toddlers under 2 years of age and babies, as they are a choking and suffocation risk
- children 12 years and under, as they do not need to wear a mask and may not be able to handle it safely
- anyone who has trouble breathing wearing a mask
- anyone who is unable to remove the mask themselves without assistance
- people assisting people who are deaf or hard of hearing (and their contacts), as for some people with hearing disabilities seeing the mouth is essential for communication.
- Some people in the community may also have issues with wearing masks due to other health conditions. Be respectful to others as reasons for not wearing a mask are not always obvious.
For more information on mandatory face coverings, including exemptions, in New South Wales please visit the New South Wales Government’s COVID-19 website
When do I need to wear a face mask?
Face masks must be worn indoors and outdoors except if at home, or if an exemption applies. Face masks must be carried at all times.
A face mask is not required in some circumstances including for:
- Infants and children under the age of 12 years.
- A person who is affected by a relevant medical condition, including problems with their breathing, a serious condition of the face, a disability or a mental health condition.
- Persons communicating with those who are deaf or hard of hearing, where the ability to see the mouth is essential for communication.
- Persons for whom wearing a face mask would create a risk to that person’s health and safety related to their work, as determined through OH&S guidelines.
- Persons whose professions require clear enunciation or visibility of their mouth. This includes teaching, lecturing or live broadcasting.
- The person is working by themselves in an enclosed indoor space such as an office unless and until another person enters that space.
- When directed to remove the face mask to ascertain identity.
- Persons being married while in the process of being married.
- Professional sportspeople when training or competing.
- Persons are engaged in any strenuous physical exercise such as running, jogging or swimming.
- The person is riding a bicycle or motorcycle.
- The person is undergoing dental or medical care or treatment to the extent that such care or treatment requires no face mask be worn.
- The person is consuming food, drink or medicine.
- The person who is a student while onsite at a primary school or outside school hours care.
- Persons receiving or providing a service from a facility which is permitted to operate under the Restricted Activity Directions (Victoria), to the extent that it is not reasonably practicable to receive that service wearing a face mask (for example, beard trimmings)
- If required or authorised by law.
- The person is travelling in a vehicle by themselves or with members of their household.
- The person is a prisoner in a prison, subject to any policies of that prison.
- The person is detained in a remand centre, youth residential centre or youth justice centre, subject to any policies of that centre.
- During emergencies.
For more information on mandatory face coverings, including exemptions, in Victoria please visit the Victorian Government’s Coronavirus website
WHAT IF IT IS NOT MANDATED TO WEAR A FACE MASK IN MY STATE OR TERRITORY?
Masks can be an added level of protection when you are in situations where is it more difficult to keep the physical distance. For example, you may choose to wear a mask if people visit your house, you are using public transport or in other enclosed public spaces. An appropriate face mask, used correctly, will reduce the risk of transmission of viruses (even while showing no symptoms of a virus, COVID-19 or otherwise) and may provide you some level of personal protection. Additionally, where there is a low level of disease in the community, fabric masks can be used in situations where it is difficult to achieve physical distancing (e.g. public transport).
A recent article published in the Lancet supported physical distancing of one metre or more to reduce the risk of spread. This study also showed the use of masks reduced the risk by 67%. This was higher with the use of respirators or N95 masks, which should be used by healthcare workers.
Health care workers who are caring for patients with suspected COVID-19 should use appropriate personal protective equipment to protect themselves against COVID-19 provided by their employer.
It is important to remember a face mask does not replace the need for other measures that reduce the spread of COVID-19. You must continue to follow general prevention advice i.e. wash your hands with soap and water for 20-30 seconds frequently, avoid people with symptoms, avoid large gatherings. View prevention techniques here.
Looking after your mask/coverings – learn about the different face masks/coverings