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Face masks - when to wear a face mask

Information about when to wear a face mask in Victoria.

Summary

Face masks update

  • From 11.59pm, Sunday 17 January 2021, face masks will no longer be mandatory in all public indoor settings.
  • These requirements are in line with settings that were in place at Christmas time.
  • Face masks continue to be mandatory in the following locations:
    • on public transport
    • when riding in a ride share or taxi
    • in large retail stores (over 2000 sqm), such as department stores, electronics stores, furniture stores, hardware stores or supermarkets
    • inside shopping centres, including the retail stores inside shopping centres, such as clothing stores
    • inside indoor markets
    • on domestic flights to and from Victoria
    • at airports
    • in hospitals
    • when working in or visiting hospitals and care facilities.
  • Additionally, from Monday 18 January 2021 face masks will no longer be required to be worn in offices.
  • You must always carry a face mask with you when you leave home unless you have a lawful reason not to.
  • It is strongly recommended you wear one whenever you cannot keep 1.5 metres distance from others. 
  • There are a number of lawful reasons to not wear a face mask.

When do I need to wear a face mask?

Face masks continue to be mandatory in the following locations:

  • on public transport
  • when riding in a ride share or taxi
  • inside shopping centres, including the retail stores inside shopping centres, such as clothing stores
  • inside indoor markets
  • in large retail stores (over 2000 sqm), such as department stores, electronics stores, furniture stores, hardware stores or supermarkets
  • on domestic flights to and from Victoria
  • at airports
  • when working in or visiting hospitals and care facilities.

You must always carry a face mask with you when you leave home unless you have a lawful reason not to. There are a number of lawful reasons to not wear a face mask.

It is strongly recommended you wear one whenever you cannot keep 1.5 metres distance from others.

Can businesses refuse service to someone if they are not wearing a face mask?

It is mandatory to wear a face mask in some public indoor settings, on domestic flights to and from Victoria, and when travelling on public transport, in a taxi or ride share vehicle. There are a number of lawful reasons to not wear a face mask, and patrons must wear a mask unless they have a lawful reason not to do so. Businesses should not refuse service to patrons who may have a valid lawful reason for not wearing a mask. For more information on face masks and human rights, visit the Human Rights website.

Wearing a face mask

Where can I get a face mask?

You can purchase cloth masks or surgical masks from retail outlets including chemists, hardware stores and other shops, or you can follow our directions to make your own cloth mask.

Can I wear my mask under my chin?

No, wearing a mask under your chin does not provide protection to you or others. You need to wear your mask securely around the face, specifically covering the nose and the mouth areas.

Can I remove my face mask to smoke or use an e-cigarette?

Yes, subject to existing restrictions on smoking in public places in Victoria.

The hand-to-mouth action of smoking and e-cigarette use means that people who smoke may be more vulnerable to coronavirus (COVID-19), as they are touching their face and mouth more often. You should wash your hands as soon as you finish and not share an individual cigarette or vaping device.

Do I have to wear a face mask when friends and family visit me at home?

It is strongly recommended that you wear a face mask when you have visitors at your home, and that your visitors also wear masks. It is also recommended that when you visit others you also wear a mask.

Can I take my face mask off when eating or drinking?

Yes. You can take your face mask off when eating or drinking.

It is best if you put on a new face mask to avoid the risk of contamination from touching the front of the face mask. If it is not possible, make sure to wash your hands with soap and water before you put on your face mask.

If you are using a reusable mask you should carry a paper bag or zip lock bag with you to carry clean masks and keep them clean. If it is not possible, make sure to wash your hands with soap and water or alcohol-based hand gel before you put on your face mask.

You should always use hand sanitiser or wash your hands before and after changing your face mask.

Do I need to wear a face mask when I am driving?

You must wear a face mask if you are a passenger or driver in a commercial vehicle such as a taxi or ride share vehicle, unless you have a lawful exemption.

If you are driving alone or only travelling with people from your household, you do not need to wear a face mask.

If you are driving with people for work or people you don’t live with then it is strongly recommended that you wear a face mask. You should also open the windows to improve ventilation.

How do I stop my face mask fogging up my glasses?

Make sure the face mask is fitted and pinched on your nose if possible. Put your glasses on after the mask. Wash your glasses with detergent and water to create a film to prevent fogging. You can also use micropore tape (available at all pharmacies) to tape the mask along the bridge of your nose and cheeks, then put your glasses on top. Or put a folded tissue across the bridge of your nose, then put your mask on and your glasses on top.

Do I have to wear a face mask while exercising?

You do not need to wear a face mask when exercising outdoors or indoors.  It is recommended that you wear a face mask when you are indoors, and you cannot keep 1.5 metres distance from others. 

You still need to carry a face mask with you at all times.

Do I still need to carry a mask with me when I exercise outdoors?

Yes. You must carry a face mask with you at all times, including when you exercise outdoors.

Can masks be removed during beauty treatments?

Yes. Masks will be able to be removed during a beauty service if required. Masks may be removed if the person is receiving a service, to the extent that it is not reasonably practicable wearing a face covering. Beauty services must keep records of their visitors and customers. 

Can masks be removed at the hairdresser or barber?

Yes. Masks may be removed if the person is receiving a service, to the extent that it is not reasonably practicable wearing a face covering.

This means masks will be able to be removed at a barber if required, for instance for a beard trimming or shave. While masks may be removed temporarily at a hairdresser where necessary to complete the service, they must be worn where it is possible to do so, for instance during most haircuts. Hairdressers and barbers must keep records of their visitors and customers. 

Will people need to wear a mask at brothels, sex on premises and adult entertainment venues?

Yes, masks must be worn where you cannot keep 1.5 metres distance from others. However, masks may be removed if the person is receiving or providing a service, to the extent that it is not reasonably practicable wearing a face covering. All venues must keep a record of their visitors and customers.

Will entertainers need to wear masks when performing for an audience?

If you cannot perform your role whilst wearing a mask, you may remove it to perform.  This applies to singers or musicians of oral instruments (brass instruments for example). For those who can wear a mask during their performance, they must wear a mask.

Performances are encouraged to take place outdoors when possible or otherwise in well ventilated areas. Performers are recommended to be 5 metres or more from the audience and 1.5 metres from each other. Physical distancing is particularly encouraged for these performers who cannot wear a mask.

I wear a hearing aid, what tips do you have for me about wearing a face mask?

If you wear a hearing aid you need to be careful when putting on or taking off your face mask to ensure you don’t lose your hearing aid or get your face mask tangled in it. Consider using a face mask that ties around the head, rather than over the ears as this will keep the ties free from your hearing aid.

If you are having trouble communicating with someone who is wearing a face mask you can ask them to speak louder or to remove their mask during your conversation. You should maintain physical distancing of at least 1.5 metres from others.

I wear traditional or religious garments that cover my head or face – what guidance can you provide for wearing a mask?

You still need to wear a fitted face mask when you are in some public indoor settings, travelling on public transport, and using taxis or ride share vehicles. It is strongly recommended that you wear a face mask outdoors when you cannot maintain at least 1.5 metres distance from other people.

There are a range of face masks available that can be worn with traditional and religious garments. These include face masks that are tied around the head, rather than looped over the ears.

A face mask that is three layers and fits securely around the face, specifically covering the nose and the mouth offers the best protection. If you are wearing a face covering, like a veil or scarf, it is recommended that you wear your face mask underneath.

What’s the best way to take off a face mask?

  • Wash your hands for at least 20 seconds with soap and water or use alcohol-based hand sanitiser containing at least 60 per cent alcohol.
  • Don’t touch the front of the face mask or your face.
  • Carefully remove your face mask by grasping the ear loops or untying the ties. For face masks with a pair of ties, unfasten the bottom one first, then the top one.
  • Fold the mask and put it directly into the laundry or into a disposable or washable bag for laundering. Single use surgical masks should be disposed of responsibly in the rubbish bin.
  • Clean your hands again by washing them or using alcohol-based hand sanitiser.

Can I remove my face mask to talk with other people?

If you are in a setting where face masks are mandatory, such as in some public indoor settings or on public transport, you can remove your face mask if you are communicating with a person who is deaf or hard of hearing, where the ability to see the mouth is essential for communication.

Exceptions for not wearing a face mask

Lawful excuses or exceptions for not wearing a face mask

A face mask is mandatory when you are in some public indoor settings, using public transport and taxis or ride share vehicles.

It is strongly recommended that you wear a face mask where it is difficult to maintain at least 1.5 metres distance from others in outdoor settings and private indoor settings.

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 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 or live broadcasting.
  • When directed to remove the face mask to ascertain identity.
  • A person who is a student while onsite at a primary school or outside school hours care.
  • Persons being married while in the process of being married. 
  • Professional sportspeople when training or competing. 
  • Persons are engaged in any strenuous physical exercise
  • During emergencies.

You must still carry a face mask with you when leaving home, even if you don’t need to wear it. This is in case you aren’t able to keep 1.5 metres distance from others and you need to put your mask on.

People with lawful exemptions for not wearing a face mask still need to keep 1.5 metres apart from others, washing or sanitising hands frequently and getting tested if unwell (even with mild symptoms). Find out more about staying safe.

I have a medical condition that prevents me from wearing a face mask, do I need a medical certificate stating I don’t need to wear a face mask?

You do not need a medical certificate stating that you have a lawful reason for not wearing a face mask. If you have a lawful reason for not wearing a face mask, you do not need to apply for an exemption or permit.

If you are stopped by police in a setting where masks are mandatory, they will ask you to confirm the lawful reason you are not wearing a face mask.

Do people with a disability have to wear a face mask?

Yes, people with a disability must wear a face mask in settings where it is mandatory unless it is unsuitable to do so for medical, physical, communication or other individual risk factors.

I have a lawful exception for not wearing a mask – can I wear a face shield or other face covering?

You can choose to wear a face shield on its own if you have a lawful reason for not wearing a face mask. Other types of coverings, including specially designed face coverings, can be worn by people who have a lawful exception to provide a level of protection.

Do residents of aged care facilities and other group homes need to wear face masks?

No. Residents of aged care facilities and other group homes do not need to wear a face mask when they are in the facility. Visitors to aged care facilities and other group homes must wear a face mask.

What about people who have experienced trauma that makes it difficult for them to wear a face mask?

Some people who have past experiences of trauma are unable to wear a face mask due to psychological impacts. This is a valid reason not to wear a face mask or carry a face mask when you leave home.

What if I need to leave home as I fear for my safety or the safety of my children due to a family violence situation?

You do not have to wear a face mask when leaving home to seek emergency support and assistance because you or your children are escaping harm or are at risk of harm from family violence. If you are stopped by police, tell them you are feeling unsafe at home and they will help you.

Family violence frontline services, including crisis accommodation, continue to operate to support women, children and families during the coronavirus (COVID-19) emergency.

There are options for accessing safe housing if you need to leave a violent situation or you are not safe in your home.

Call safe steps on 1800 015 188 or email safesteps@safesteps.org.au for help 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

For more info visit Family violence support during coronavirus.

What about people who need to leave home in an emergency?

People who need to leave home in an emergency do not need to wear a face mask.

Can I take my face mask off if someone I am communicating with can’t hear me?

You can remove your face mask if you are communicating with a person who is deaf or hard of hearing, where the ability to see the mouth is essential for communication.

You should maintain physical distancing of 1.5 metres and if you need to cough or sneeze, do so into a tissue or your elbow.

Reviewed 24 January 2021

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