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Face masks

Face masks can prevent COVID-19 transmission.

Face masks can stop or slow viruses from spreading. Face masks lower your chance of catching and spreading an airborne virus. That’s why wearing a high-quality and well-fitted face mask can help protect you and those around you from COVID-19.

Illustration of two people apart without face masks are high risk of catching COVID and two people 1.5 meters apart wearing face masks are at lowest risk of catching COVID

When to wear a face mask in Victoria

We recommend wearing a mask:

  • for at least 7 days if you have COVID-19 and:
    • you need to leave home
    • you are indoors, or
    • you cannot maintain physical distance
  • if you are a close contact and you need to leave home
  • if you are visiting or working in a sensitive setting such as hospitals and aged care facilities.

Choosing a face mask

High-quality and well-fitted face masks can stop or slow viruses spreading.

Respirator masks (N95 and P2), KN95 masks and KF94 masks help protect against airborne or aerosol transmission. They are more effective than surgical masks. Surgical masks help protect against larger droplets. Cloth masks are the least effective.

Wearing a respirator mask indoors reduces your risk of infection by more than 83 per cent; a surgical mask reduces your risk by 66 per cent; a cloth mask by more than 50 per cent.

Choosing a more protective respirator or mask is recommended if:

  • you are caring for someone in your home who is sick with COVID-19
  • you are at high risk of severe illness from COVID-19
  • you are visiting someone at high risk of severe illness
  • you are visiting a setting where people may be more vulnerable to COVID-19 such as a hospital or aged care facility
  • in large crowded areas – especially if there are many people not wearing masks or if it is not possible to physically distance
  • you are not up to date with COVID-19 vaccination.

Free N95 and KN95 face masks are available to help Victorians protect themselves and to reduce the spread of COVID-19 and other respiratory diseases.

Packs of ten face masks are distributed to anyone who gets a COVID-19 test at a state testing site, community health services and GP respiratory clinics. They are available upon request at staffed train stations and Public Transport Victoria hubs.

Different types of masks provide different levels of protection. Wear the most protective mask you can. Make sure that it fits well and that there are no air gaps on the side.

The following face masks are recommended, 1 being the best protection:

  1. N95 or P2 respirator mask: These are high filtering masks. If they fit correctly, they provide the best protection. Respirator masks with straps that go around the head are likely to fit better and give more protection than respirator masks with ear loops.
  2. KN95 mask or KF94 mask: These are high filtering masks but are not as well fitted as a respirator. They usually have ear loops, so they don't achieve a good seal between the mask and the face as an N95 or P2 respirator mask.
  3. Surgical or medical mask: These provide good protection when worn correctly, fitting snugly over your nose, mouth and chin. You may get a better fit by shortening the ear loops by tying a knot or wearing a cloth mask on top of a surgical or medical mask.
  4. Reusable 3 layer cloth mask: These can provide protection if they are made of tightly woven fabric and are machine-washed every day.

How to use a face mask

Here's how to use your face mask:

  • Wash your hands before touching the mask.
  • The mask should comfortably and snugly cover your mouth, nose and chin.
  • Adjust the mask so there are no air gaps on the side.
  • Avoid touching the mask while it is on.
  • Replace the mask when it gets wet or dirty, or when the straps are stretched so that the mask no longer fits snugly against your face. Dispose into waste bin after use.
  • If you use a disposable mask again, you should store it in a clean, dry place, such as a paper bag between uses. Do not attempt to wash or sterilise it. This advice on re-use is for the general public only. It is not intended for healthcare settings.
  • Wash your hands after removing the mask.

Children and face masks

School-aged children are encouraged to wear face masks indoors in a public space or outside in a crowded place where they can't physically distance. This is especially if they are at a higher risk of serious illness from COVID-19.

Children aged 2 years or younger should not wear a mask, because it is a choking and suffocation risk.

Reviewed 22 November 2022

Coronavirus Victoria

Coronavirus Hotline

Call the Coronavirus Hotline if you need help to report a rapid antigen test (RAT) or if you have any questions about COVID-19.

The Victorian Coronavirus Hotline diverts to the National Coronavirus Helpline every night between 6pm and 8am.

Please keep Triple Zero (000) for emergencies only.

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