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Face masks - when to wear a face mask

Information about when to wear a face mask in Victoria.

Summary

There are different restrictions in place in metropolitan Melbourne and regional Victoria.

Face masks in regional Victoria

Face masks must be carried at all times in regional Victoria and worn inside (except at private residences) and outside if you cannot maintain at least 1.5 metres apart. Find out more about face mask requirements in regional Victoria.

Face masks metropolitan Melbourne

Anyone in metropolitan Melbourne aged 12 years old and over must wear a fitted face mask indoors and outdoors (except at private residences), unless an exception applies

This includes places such as: 

  • shopping centres, supermarkets, retail outlets and markets 
  • when visiting hospitals and aged care facilities 
  • restaurants and cafes, when you are not eating or drinking 
  • indoor workplaces 
  • libraries 
  • cinemas 
  • churches and places of worship 
  • entertainment facilities 
  • outdoors i.e. taking the dog for a walk  
  • recreational facilities and gyms (an exemption applies when engaged in any strenuous exercise) 
  • on public transport, in taxis, or in ride share vehicles 
  • at airports and in aircraft 

Additionally, face masks must be:

  • carried at all times (except if a lawful exception applies to you) 
  • be worn outdoors (except if a lawful exception applies) if: 
  • visiting a hospital 
  • visiting a care facility and you are within 1.5 metres of a resident or staff member; 
  • you are a diagnosed person or a close contact and need to leave their premises for a lawful exception (e.g. to obtain medical care);
  • awaiting test results and need to leave the premises (e.g to obtain medical care), or 
  • experiencing any COVID-19 symptoms.

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

Businesses should not refuse service to patrons who may have a lawful reason for not wearing a face mask at venues that require mandatory face masks. For more information on face masks and human rights, visit the  website of the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission.

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.

Face shields on their own do not meet the face covering requirements in the Directions currently in force.

Can I wear my face mask under my nose or chin?

No, wearing a face mask under your nose or chin does not provide protection to you or others. You need to wear your face 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 (COVID-19), as they are touching their face and mouth more often. You should wash your hands as soon as you finish and should not share an individual cigarette or vaping device.

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 face 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 face mask on and your glasses on top.

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 face mask?

You need to wear a fitted face mask when you are travelling on public transport, using taxis or ride share vehicles, or visiting a hospital or indoor space at a care facility.

You must also wear a face mask at the airport and while travelling on domestic flights to and from Victoria.

You will also need to wear a face mask when you leave home if you have COVID-19 symptoms, while awaiting COVID-19 test results (except as part of a surveillance or other asymptomatic testing program), or if you are a diagnosed person or close contact of a person diagnosed with COVID-19, when leaving your home or accommodation for a permitted reason, such as to seek medical care or get tested.

It is 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 face 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 on public transport or in a taxi or ride-share vehicle, 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 not required to be worn in some circumstances including for:

  • Infants and children under the age of 12 years.
  • Persons who have a physical or mental health illness or condition, or disability, which makes wearing a face covering unsuitable, including persons with obstructed breathing, a serious skin condition of the face, an intellectual disability, a mental health condition or persons who have experienced trauma.
  • Persons communicating with those who are deaf or hard of hearing and visibility of the mouth is essential for communication.
  • Persons for whom the nature of their work or education means that wearing a face mask creates a risk to health and safety.
  • Persons for whom the nature of their work or education means that clear enunciation or visibility of their mouth is essential. 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 asked to remove the face mask to ascertain identity. For instance, where asked by police, security, bank or post office staff to remove a face mask to ascertain identity.
  • Persons being married while in the process of being married.
  • Professional sportspeople when training or competing.
  • Persons who are engaged in any strenuous physical exercise such as running, jogging, swimming or cycling.
  • 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 or provide that service while 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.
  • Where not doing so is not safe in all the circumstances.

People with lawful excuses for not wearing a face mask should still keep at least 1.5 metres apart from others, practice regular hand hygiene by washing or sanitising hands frequently, continue to comply with the Directions currently in force, and get 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 face 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 the person has a physical or mental health illness or condition, or disability, which makes wearing a face mask unsuitable (for instance, due to medical, physical, communication or other individual risk factors).

I have a lawful exception for not wearing a face 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 against COVID-19 transmission

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 lawful reason not to wear a face mask when you leave home. You do not need to carry or produce evidence proving that you are eligible for this exception.

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 and 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 18 June 2021

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