Face mask update – what to consider, risks and safety recommendations


If you are in an area where community transmission is occurring, you may be asked to wear a mask when you leave your home. In some regions this may be mandatory. States and Territories will make these decisions based on their local situations. It is important to stay across the advice for your area.

From 11:59pm on Sunday 2 August 2020, all Victorians over the age of 12 years must wear a face covering when they leave home, no matter where they live. Face coverings include (surgical, cloth, bandana/scarf or shield) Unless an exception applies, you must wear a face covering when you leave your home. This includes travelling on public transport, or with people outside of your household.

The NSW Government is strongly encouraging greater use of masks in high-risk public settings to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.

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 preferably when in the same room as another person or when seeking medical advice, to reduce the risk of transmitting COVID-19 to anyone else.

Tips to ease into wearing a face covering – here

Mandatory face masks in Victoria

In Victoria, you are to wear a mask or face covering when you leave your home for one of the four reasons. Doing this is one extra step that we can all take to keep each other safe and reduce the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19). But we all know this may not be possible for everyone in the community. Some cannot wear a face-covering due to a legitimate reason, such as medical conditions including breathing problems, a serious condition of the face, a disability, a mental health condition, or if wearing it induces trauma or anxiety. That is okay. If we support each other, we all benefit.

Department of Health and Human Services Victoria (DHHS) has easy to understand and accessible information on everything you need to know about face coverings and exemptions. Please click here for more information.  Additionally, they have created some badges to wear and or show for those of you that are exempt. You can either click on the below badge option or access them via the DHHS website here.

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.

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.

Face masks can restrict breathing for those with existing respiratory conditions. In a recent Asthma Australia survey of 236 people, 69% of those who had used a face mask before said that it made it harder for them to breathe. If you have asthma and masks make it difficult for you to breathe and speak to your doctor or specialist before using a mask be extra vigilant with your other hygiene and self-protection practices.

If a face mask is not available, other forms of face coverings may be used such as a scarf or bandana – any face mask or covering is better than none.

Looking after your mask/coverings – learn about the different face masks/coverings