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Face masks - when to wear a face mask

Information about when to wear a face mask in Victoria.

From 11:59pm Thursday 15 July restrictions across Victoria have changed

New changes have been introduced to slow the spread of COVID-19 by reducing the number of people leaving their homes and moving around Victoria.

  • This means that you cannot leave your home other than for one of the five following reasons:

Victorians may also leave home to visit their intimate partner, their single social bubble buddy, or in an emergency – including those at risk of family violence.

You must stay within 5km of your home for shopping and exercise. This limit does not apply to work, when giving or receiving care, getting a COVID-19 vaccination or visiting an intimate partner or your single social bubble buddy.

Face masks must be worn indoors and outdoors whenever you leave your home.
Face masks do not need to be worn indoors or outdoors if you are working alone unless another person enters that indoor or outdoor space.

You can leave your home in an emergency or if there is family violence.

These actions will protect our loved ones, friends, colleagues, health care workers and the community.

Necessary goods and services:

  • Necessary goods and services include supermarkets, pharmacies, butchers, bottle shops, petrol stations, post offices, banks, food stores, newsagents, liquor stores, and pet stores. Supermarkets will continue to stay open to allow people to buy food, so there is no need to stock up on groceries. Other retail shops will only be available for delivery or contactless click and collect, and workers may attend onsite to facilitate these orders.
  • Cafes and restaurants will only be able to offer take-away and delivery services.
  • You can only travel up to 5km from your home for shopping and exercising. You should stay as close to your home as possible, for example, shopping at the nearest supermarket.
  • For some people, the nearest essential goods and services will be more than 5km away. In this situation, you may travel beyond 5km to the nearest provider.
  • A person is permitted to drive a person with whom they reside, if it is not otherwise practical for that person to leave the house for a permitted reason.
  • Only one person per household can leave home to get necessary goods and services. They can leave once a day, which means people can’t make multiple shopping trips. You should limit the time you spend away from home. If you are unable to leave a child, children or a person in your care unattended, they may accompany you. You may accompany someone to shop for support, if necessary, for example, an elderly relative.
  • If you are taking a child, children or a person in your care with you when you shop you should not leave them in the car unattended while you shop. Leaving children unaccompanied in a vehicle is an offence in Victoria.
  • Hotel and accommodation providers will be able to stay open to support guests already staying onsite. No new bookings can be made, unless for a permitted reason – for example someone who requires accommodation as an authorised worker.
  • If you are not at your principal place of residence at 11:59pm Thursday 15 July, it’s encouraged that you stay where you are for the duration of the lockdown.
  • Funerals will be able to go ahead indoors and outdoors with up to ten people, plus those required to conduct the funeral. Weddings will need to be postponed, except in exceptional circumstances.

Social interaction (single social bubble)

  • If you live alone or are a single parent you can create a ‘single social bubble’ by nominating one other person to be a part of your bubble.
  • You can have the person you form a bubble with visit your home.
  • Your nominated person can be from a household or share house, and you are also able to visit them in their home, but only when they are alone. If both you and your single social buddy are single parents, your children can be a part of your bubble.

Exercise:

  • You can leave home to exercise, but there are limits:
  • You must not travel more than 5km from where you live to exercise. You must limit your outdoor exercise to no more than 2 hours per day.
  • Gyms, pools, community centres, entertainment venues and libraries will all be closed.
  • You can exercise with the members of your household or one other friend or family member as long as you both do not travel more than 5km.
  • Please use common sense and limit the number of people you see in person right now. It is safer to connect with friends and family using phone calls, social media and video calls.
  • If you are exercising with someone else, you should keep at least 1.5 metres distance between you. Don’t hug, kiss or shake hands.
  • If you are a parent or guardian who is caring for a child or someone who cannot be left unattended, then they may go with you.
  • Recreational activities that require the use of a facility will not be allowed. Facilities such as tennis clubs, bowls clubs, shooting ranges and golf clubs will close. Outdoor activities that can be undertaken without accessing a facility, such as hunting, are permitted within the 5km and 2 hour limits.

Health care:

  • You can leave home to receive health care or attend medical appointments (including COVID-19 vaccination appointments).
  • If you need to see a doctor or health care professional, you should do so. Do not put off getting medical care. Your doctor or health care professional can provide advice on how to stay safe.
  • You can leave home to care for a sick or elderly relative. If you provide care for someone, you should try to keep 1.5 metres between you when you can.
  • Wear a face mask.
  • You can leave home to accompany someone for essential medical treatment if you are a parent, guardian or necessary support person.
  • You can take a pet to the vet.
  • The 5km limit does not apply to care and health care.

Work and education:

  • A list of who is considered an authorised provider or an authorised worker is available here.
  • If you can work from home – you must work from home.
  • You can go to work to collect the materials or equipment you need to work from home.
  • The 5km limit does not apply to work.
  • All schools will close, except for vulnerable children and children of authorised workers or authorised providers, who can attend for onsite supervision. Schools will continue to support students through remote learning or providing learning materials for use at home.
  • Universities and TAFEs will close or move to remote learning.
  • Childcare, family day care, early learning centres and kinders will remain open. A permit is not required.
  • Victorians may work interstate (where permitted by the state you are working in).

Additionally:

  • You can move homes if you are moving to a property that will be your ordinary and ongoing residence. Removalists may assist you to move, but family and friends cannot.
  • You can leave home if there is an emergency.
  • You can leave home if there is family violence or violence by another person in the home, and you are at risk. If you are stopped by police, tell them you are feeling unsafe at home and they will help you. Safe accommodation and support for family violence is available. Call safe steps on 1800 015 188 or email safesteps@safesteps.org.au for help 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
  • If you need to leave home, you must wear a face mask, unless you have a lawful reason for not doing so.

Other ways to stay safe:

  • Always wash your hands before you leave, and when you return home.
  • Keep at least 1.5 metres between yourself and others.
  • Never, ever go out if you are unwell unless it is to get tested.
  • After you get tested, you must go straight home.
  • Remember that the most important thing you can do is get tested, even if you have the mildest of symptoms.
  • Get vaccinated.

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.

Is a scarf or bandana an appropriate face covering? 

You must wear a fitted face mask that covers the nose and mouth, designed to protect you from COVID-19. It does not mean a scarf or bandana or loose snood or loose gaiter.

The Chief Health Officer recommends a mask with 3 layers that fits securely around the face, specifically covering the nose and the mouth.

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. 
  • Students at primary school or after school hours care at a primary school. 
  • 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. 
  • The person is at a premises that is their ordinary place of residence or their temporary place of residence. 
  • The person is visiting a person with whom they are in an intimate personal relationship with. 
  • 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 broadcasting. 
  • The person is working by themselves in an enclosed indoor space such as an office unless and until another person enters that space. 
  • The person is working by themselves in an outdoor space, provided no other person is also in the outdoor space (except a person who ordinarily resides at the same premises with them).  
  • 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. 
  • The person is one of two persons being married while in the process of being married. 
  • The person is a professional sportsperson when training or competing. 
  • Persons who are engaged in any strenuous physical exercise such as running, jogging, swimming or cycling. 
  • 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 smoking or vaping (including e-cigarettes) while stationary. 
  • The person is consuming food, drink or medicine. 
  • 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. 
  • The person is escaping harm or the risk of harm, including harm relating to family violence or violence of another person. 
  • For emergency purposes. 
  • 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. 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 at least 1.5 metres and if you need to cough or sneeze, do so into a tissue or your elbow.

Reviewed 20 July 2021

Coronavirus Victoria

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