Free N95 and KN95 face masks are now available to help Victorians protect themselves and others and to reduce the spread of COVID-19 and other respiratory diseases.
Packs of ten face masks are being distributed to anyone who gets a COVID-19 test at a state testing site, and through community health services and GP respiratory clinics. They are available upon request at staffed train stations and Public Transport Victoria hubs.
Face masks can stop or slow viruses spreading in the air when you talk, cough, sneeze and laugh. 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.
Mask wearing is strongly recommended if you are indoors in a public space or outside in a crowded place where you can’t physically distance. People who are at risk of severe COVID illness are encouraged to wear a mask whenever in public.
Masks remain required on public transport, taxis, ride shares, planes, in sensitive settings such as hospitals and care facilities, and if you are a household contact in an indoor space outside your home.
Choosing a face mask
High-quality and well-fitted face masks can stop or slow viruses spreading.
Respirator masks (N95 and P2) or KN95 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.
Recommended face masks
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:
- Respirators - N95 or P2 mask: These are filtering masks and they provide the best protection when fitted correctly.
- KN95 mask: These are high filtering masks, but are not as well fitted as a respirator. The ear loops don't achieve a good seal between the mask and the face.
- Surgical or medical mask: These provide good protection when worn correctly (for example, fitting snugly over your nose, mouth and chin).
- Reusable three-layer cloth mask: These can also provide protection if they are made of tightly woven fabric and are machine washed every day.
For more information, see our factsheet:
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 masks 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.
- Wash your hands after removing the mask.
Children and face masks
School-aged children are strongly encouraged to wear face masks indoors in a public space or outside in a crowded place where they can't physically distance.
Children aged 2 years or younger should not wear a mask, because it is a choking and suffocation risk.
Children aged 8 and over must wear a mask on public transport, taxis, ride shares, in sensitive setting such as hospitals and care facilities, and if they are a close contact in an indoor space outside the home.
Children aged 12 years and over must also wear a mask on an aircraft.
When to wear a face mask in Victoria
We strongly recommend wearing a mask if you:
- are in an indoor setting
- can’t physically distance, such as at entry or exit points to large events
- have any COVID-19 symptoms, though you should remain home, or
- are with people who may be vulnerable to COVID-19.
People who are at risk of severe COVID illness are encouraged to wear a mask whenever in public.
Face masks are mandatory for everyone aged 8 years and above in the following settings:
- On public transport, in taxis/rideshare services and in tourism vehicles.
- While inside an aircraft (for ages 12 and over).
- While visiting a hospital, care facility or any other indoor space that is publicly accessible in a healthcare setting, including allied health settings.
- In a public indoor space if you are a close contact of a COVID-19 case.
- Working in an indoor space that is a publicly accessible area of a court or justice centre.
- Working in a resident-facing role in an indoor space at a care facility, including when not interacting with residents.
- Working in an indoor space at a prison, police gaol, remand centre, youth residential centre, youth justice centre or post-sentence facility.
- After being tested for COVID-19 and awaiting results.
- If you have COVID-19 or are a close or household contact and are permitted to leave quarantine (for example, because you have tested negative on a rapid antigen test).
A face mask is not mandatory in the following situations:
- Infants and children under 8 years of age.
- Persons who have a physical or mental health 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 means that wearing a face mask creates a risk to health and safety.
- Persons for whom the nature of their work means that clear enunciation or visibility of their mouth is essential. For example, broadcasting.
- The person is working by themselves in an enclosed indoor space such as in an empty classroom unless or until another person enters that space.
- The person is a professional sportsperson when training or competing.
- While engaged in any strenuous physical exercise such as running or cycling.
- When riding a bicycle or motorcycle.
- When consuming medicine, food, or drink.
- When smoking or vaping (including e-cigarettes) while stationary.
- When undergoing specific dental or medical care or treatment to the extent that such care or treatment requires no face mask be worn.
- When receiving or providing a service and it is not reasonably practicable to receive or provide that service wearing a face covering.
- 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 a resident in a post-sentence facility while they are at the facility, subject to any policies of that facility.
- When escaping harm or the risk of harm, including harm relating to family violence or violence of another person.
- When asked to remove the face mask to ascertain identity. For instance, when asked by police, security, bank, or post office staff to remove a face mask to ascertain identity.
- For emergency purposes.
- When required or authorised by law.
- Where doing so is not safe.
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.
Reviewed 09 August 2022