“Effectively stage four”: Face masks mandatory Victoria-wide as state reports record 723 cases

hotel quarantine

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews. Source: AAP/James Ross.

Face masks or coverings will be mandatory for all of Victoria from midnight Sunday, as authorities report a record 723 new coronavirus cases on Thursday.

In a move to what Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews described as “effectively stage four” restrictions across the state, a mandate for face coverings to be worn across metropolitan Melbourne will be extended to regional areas indefinitely.

Individuals who are not wearing a face mask, and who do not have a lawful excuse, risk being fined $200.

Residents in six local government areas surrounding the Geelong corridor will also be barred from having visitors in their homes or visiting the homes of others from midnight on Thursday, as cases begin to pop up outside Melbourne’s stage three ‘stay at home’ zone.

These local government areas include Greater Geelong, Surf Coast, Moorabool, Golden Plains, Colac-Otway and Queenscliffe Borough.

Hospitality venues will be allowed to remain open in those areas, because authorities believe infections are occurring from household-to-household, not in venues subject to COVIDSafe regulations.

But hospitality venues across regional Victoria will nevertheless be required to enforce new restrictions in their venues under extended face-covering rules, Andrews explained.

“If you are seated, if you’re are eating or drinking, you do not need to have a mask on. But if you are not seated, then you have your mask on,” he said.

Andrews said the new mask rules would be challenging for Victorians, but were necessary to curb the state’s second wave.

“It’s inconvenient, it’s challenging, but it’s essentially stage four for Melbourne, and it’s something we can do in regional Victoria without causing significant economic cost, but getting a really significant public health benefit,” he said.

Asked about the timeline for the six-week stay-at-home order across metropolitan Melbourne and Mitchell Shire, Andrews said it’s impossible to say whether the state will be in a position to ease restrictions in three weeks time.

“The timing for restrictions will be based on data. These numbers are far too high. If it were next Sunday, this Sunday for instance, that we were due to open up again, the answer would be no,” he said.

On the prospect of tougher trading restrictions on businesses, Andrews said the “overwhelming majority” of workplace clusters have emerged from businesses which would be regarded as essential.

“I would not rule out having to take some drastic action in a number of settings. 

“Putting in place restrictions for their own sake, to look like you are doing things … we have not done that. We have put in restrictions that have targeted the problem where the data tell us the problem is,” he said.

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