Victoria Govt Enforces Mask Wearing as 363 New COVID-19 Cases, 3 More Deaths Reported

July 18, 2020 Updated: July 18, 2020

Victoria has recorded 363 fresh COVID-19 cases and three more deaths, prompting a move to make face masks mandatory in coming days.

Two men and a woman, aged in their 90s, with the virus have died, taking the state’s toll to 38, Premier Daniel Andrews said on July 19. The national toll is 122.

There are 2,837 active cases across the state, with 130 people in hospital, of those 28 are in intensive care.

Thirty-six of the new cases are linked to outbreaks and 327 cases are under investigation. There have been 5,696 COVID-19 cases in the state.

Face masks or face coverings will be mandatory for people who leave their homes for the four legal reasons in metropolitan Melbourne and in the Mitchell Shire from 11.59 p.m. on July 22, Andrews said.

“If you are out of your home for one of the four reasons, then you need to be wearing a mask and I stress – or a face covering – it need not be a hospital-grade mask, it need not be one of the handmade masks … it can be a scarf, it can be a homemade mask,” Andrews said.

“Any face covering is better than no face-covering.”

Up to three million face masks are on order by the state government and the first batch of 300,000 is due to arrive this week, he added.

“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. It is a simple thing but it’s about changing habits,” Andrews said.

“Most of us wouldn’t leave home without our keys, we wouldn’t leave home without our mobile phone, you won’t be able to leave your home without the mask and then where it is absolutely essential to stop the spread of this virus.”

Students who are able to wear face masks at school must too, he said.

Anyone caught not wearing a face mask or covering can be fined $200 (US$140).

More than 1.3 million tests have been done in the state, with 26,674 tests done on July 18 alone.

Meanwhile, many public housing residents in North Melbourne are coming out of a two-week ‘hard’ lockdown after a coronavirus outbreak.

The state government had enforced the shut-in of public housing residents at 33 Alfred Street since July 4 ended late Saturday night.

They can now leave their homes for food, medicine, exercise, study and work – like the rest of Melbourne.

But 123 of the tower’s residents, who either have the virus or are a close contact of someone who does, must remain in their units until they are cleared.

By Christine McGinn