COVID-19: Melbourne to make mask wearing mandatory amid rising cases
The Australian city of Melbourne is set to make mask wearing in public mandatory. The new rule will be enforced from 11.59 pm (local time) on Wednesday night and those who do not comply with the rule will face A$200 ($140) fine.
People in Melbourne must now wear masks when leaving their homes as Victoria, Australia’s COVID-19 hot spot and the country's second most-populous state, marked two weeks of triple-digit increases in new infections on Sunday.
Victoria, which forced nearly 5 million people into a partial six-week lockdown on July 9, reported 363 new COVID-19 cases and three deaths in the last 24 hours, said state Premier Daniel Andrews, adding that Melbournians not wearing face coverings will be fined A$200 ($140).
The new rule will be enforced from 11.59 pm (local time) on Wednesday night.
"We are going to be wearing masks in Victoria, and potentially in other parts of the country, for a very long time. There's no vaccine to this wildly infectious virus, and it's a simple thing but it's about changing habits," Andrews said.
"Common sense" will guide the new rules, and despite being mandatory, Andrews advised the measure be done "whenever practical".
"If you are out of your home for one of the four (permitted) reasons, then you need to be wearing a mask and I stress it need not be a hospital-grade mask," he said, adding, "Any face covering is better than no face-covering." Andrews said the move was the "powerful next step" in mitigating the spread of coronavirus in the state.
"It doesn't come at an enormous cost to the Victorian economy," he said.
"It still allows us to go about our business — particularly those who can't work at home and for going shopping for the basics." Anyone who fails to wear a mask could be fined 200 Australian dollars (Rs 10,479) with some exceptions including for those with a medical reason, kids under age of 12 years, those who have a professional reason.
Australia has recorded about 11,800 coronavirus cases, a fraction of what has been seen in other countries or even some US states, but an outbreak of community transmission in Victoria has been growing, prompting authorities to impose stricter social distancing measures.
Victoria state is currently struggling with the second wave of coronavirus cases that has taken its death toll to 38 as of Sunday and the national toll to 122.
"About 80 per cent of our new cases since mid-May are being driven by transmission in workplaces, including private sector aged care," Andrews said.
“Community transmission is difficult and challenging,” Australia’s Health Minister Greg Hunt told a televised briefing. “That remains our single greatest threat.”
Meanwhile, New South Wales recorded 18 new cases in the last 24 hours while no new cases were recorded in Queensland and Western Australia.
NSW Health deputy chief health officer Jeremy McAnulty has asked residents to remain vigilant.
"It wouldn't take much for us to be in Melbourne's situation and we need everyone's assistance," he said, adding, "Everyone has got a role to play. Don't be complacent."