19 Jul 2020

Covid-19: Mandatory masks in Melbourne as 363 new cases reported

5:31 pm on 19 July 2020

Victoria has recorded 363 new cases and three more deaths from Covid-19, with Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews announcing masks will be made compulsory in Melbourne and Mitchell Shire in a few days' time.

A medical worker (C) speaks to people queueing outside a COVID-19 coronavirus testing venue at The Royal Melbourne Hospital in Melbourne on July 16, 2020.

A medical worker speaks to people queueing outside a Covid-19 coronavirus testing venue at The Royal Melbourne Hospital in Melbourne. Photo: William WEST / AFP

Premier Daniel Andrews announced the updated tally today, which brings active cases across the state to 2837, with 130 Victorians in hospital and 28 of those are in intensive care.

The two men and one woman who had died were all aged in their 90s, Andrews said, and 327 of the new cases reported were still under investigation.

He said the requirement to wear masks would apply from 11.59pm local time on Wednesday, with a $200 fine for not complying.

"If you are out of your home for one of the four permitted reasons, then you need to be wearing a mask ... or a face covering," Andrews said.

"It need not be a hospital-grade mask ... it can be a scarf, it can be a homemade mask."

Australia's Victoria state premier Daniel Andrews speaks during a press conference in Melbourne on July 15, 2020, as the city battles fresh outbreaks of the COVID-19 coronavirus while under lockdown.

Victoria Premier Daniel Andrews. Photo: AFP

He said the measures would apply to metropolitan Melbourne and Mitchell Shire.

"This is on the advice of the chief health officer that it's a relatively simple thing but it's also about embedding behaviour which I think is just as important on the other side of this second wave as it is in bringing these case numbers down ... most of us wouldn't leave home without our keys, we wouldn't leave our home without our mobile phone."

Andrews said 80 percent of all new cases since mid-May in Victoria could be attributed to transmission in the workplace, including in the aged care sector.

"We have a specific plan in partnership with the Commonwealth to deal with the fact that unbeknownst to them, many, many casual staff are moving into nursing home environments and bringing the virus to work with them," he said.

Health officials check people at a Covid-19 testing centre in Melbourne

Health officials check people at a Covid-19 testing centre in Melbourne. Photo: AFP

"We know the catastrophic impact that can have on very vulnerable residents ... it's also contributing to our numbers and it's contributing to the community transmission, the transmission within the Victorian community, in a significant way."

Victorian Health Minister Jenny Mikakos has announced aged care workers will be able to access funding if they need to isolate for 14 days.

"If an aged care worker, or, in fact, any worker does not have access to leave entitlements, they can access a $1,500 payment from the Victorian Government to ensure that they can be isolated for that 14-day period because they have been either diagnosed or are a close contact."

Andrews also said masks would also be worn in schools, although teachers would not have to wear one while teaching.

"It won't operate for teachers as such because obviously communicating ... being able to see the teacher's face is very important in terms of that education process where a teacher can wear a mask, of course,

"Students who will be able to wear masks, it would be less of a barrier to their educational experience to and from school and wherever practical at school will need to wear masks also."

Victoria's Chief Health Officer, Professor Brett Sutton, clarified that face coverings were not mandatory for those under 12 years, but would be the new normal.

"Below the age of 12, it's a consideration," he said.

"We say not for toddlers but it's a consideration for all other children ... it is mandatory, really from that high school age onwards.

"We don't want kids to be, some of them to be, forced to wear them in primary school and others not to be."


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