Victorians are being asked to wear face masks in public if social distancing measures cannot be guaranteed.

Acting Chief Medical Officer, Professor Paul Kelly and Prime Minister Scott Morrison fronted the media this afternoon to provide an update on the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

As always, Kelly said the overarching advice for people in metropolitan Melbourne and Mitchell Shire is to stay home unless they need to go out for essential reasons.

Upon the subject of wearing a face mask, Kelly said, for example, that if people are displaying symptoms and need to go for a test, you should definitely wear a mask.

“Other people, where physical distancing cannot be guaranteed, they should also wear a mask in Melbourne and Mitchell Shire,” Kelly advised.

Morrison added that this advice is not a “broad application across the country but in designated areas that have been affected in a way that they have in those parts of Victoria.”

Kelly made it clear that this is the advice “if you cannot guarantee physical distancing.”

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews echoed these words moments later in his daily briefing.

“When you are out of your home for one of those four permitted reasons and when you can’t maintain that 1.5 metre social distance, so whether you are in an Uber or a taxi or if you are on public transport, many other examples … even a homemade mask or another mask … it is our request of you, it’s not compulsory, we are simply asking that if you can wear a mask where you can’t distance, that is exactly what we would like you to do.”

Andrews described wearing a mask as a small contribution that could make a really big difference.

Victorian Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton added that studies have shown that wearing face masks make a significant difference. “When they are worn very broadly across a population where people can’t distance that 1.5 metres, then they can make a difference, they reduce transmission by up to two-thirds,” he said.

“So in those settings where you might be in close proximity with others – public transport, taxis, and Uber, shopping for food, shopping for goods, essential goods, visiting your GP, these are really important times to wear a mask, especially when you know that somebody has to be in close proximity to you because you need to be there and you can’t distance effectively.”

Sutton made it very clear, however, that “wearing the mask is no substitute for keeping the distance from people, isolating when you are unwell, and getting tested.”

Andrews said the government has begun the process of getting two million reusable masks made, which will be distributed to the community.

“We will also in the interim provide up to one million additional single-use masks,” Andrews said. Details, including guides on how to make homemade masks, will be made available in the coming days.

Victoria has recorded 288 new cases since yesterday. Of those cases, 262 cases are still under investigation by a public health team.
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