Information about wearing face coverings in Victoria.

What has changed

  • From 11:59pm on Sunday 2 August 2020, all Victorians must wear a face covering when they leave home, no matter where they live.
  • There are a number of lawful excuses for not wearing a face covering.
On this page

Why we are making this change

From 11:59pm on Sunday 2 August 2020, every person living in Victoria must wear a face covering when they leave home. This change follows a recent concerning increase in coronavirus (COVID-19) cases in Victoria and increasing evidence that wearing a face covering helps prevent the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19). Wearing a face covering provides an additional physical barrier and helps to reduce community transmission.

What does wearing a face covering mean?

You must wear a face covering when you are leaving your home unless you have a lawful reason for not doing so. This means either a face mask or face shield. A face covering needs to be worn covering both your nose and mouth.

  • A face mask is recommended, and includes any paper or textile covering designed or made to be worn over the nose and mouth to protect the wearer. It does not have to be medical grade and you can make your own. There are instructions on how to make a mask on the Department’s website - How to make a mask.
  • If a face mask is not available, other forms of face covering may be used such as a scarf or bandana.

A face shield means any film made from plastic or other transparent material designed or made to be worn like a visor, covering the wearer’s forehead to below the chin area and wrapping around the sides of the wearer’s face, to provide the wearer protection

Why should I wear a face covering?

Wearing a face covering helps keep you and others safe. Coronavirus (COVID-19) is spread from close contact with a person with coronavirus (COVID-19). Face coverings help stop droplets spreading when someone speaks, laughs, coughs, or sneezes, including someone who has coronavirus (COVID-19) but feels well.

The best way to protect other people against coronavirus (COVID-19) is keeping 1.5 metres apart, wash your hands often, and cough or sneeze into your elbow or tissue. Face coverings are an additional protective physical barrier to protect you and your loved ones.

When do I have to wear a face covering?

Unless an exception applies, you must wear a face covering when you leave your home. This includes travelling on public transport, or with people outside of your household. You are not required to wear a face covering when driving with someone from your household, or if you are driving for work purposes on your own, for example, if you are a delivery driver.

Exceptions for not wearing a face covering

Lawful excuses or exceptions for not wearing a face covering

A face covering is not required in some circumstances including:

  • Infants and children under the age of 12 years.
  • A person who is affected by a relevant medical condition, including problems with their breathing, a serious condition of the face, a disability or a mental health condition.
  • Persons who are deaf or hard of hearing, where the ability to see the mouth is essential for communication.
  • Persons for whom wearing a face covering would create a risk to that person’s health and safety related to their work, as determined through OH&S guidelines.
  • Persons whose professions require clear enunciation or visibility of their mouth. This includes teaching or live broadcasting.
  • Professional sportspeople when training or competing.
  • If you are working on your own property with members of your household, but no staff or contractors are on site.
  • When you are doing any exercise or physical activity where you are out of breath or puffing. Examples include jogging or running, but not walking. You must carry a face covering on you and wear it when you finish exercising.
  • When directed to remove the face covering to ascertain identity.
  • When you are travelling in a vehicle by yourself or with other members of your household.
  • When consuming food, drink or medication, including when seated at a restaurant where permitted.
  • When undergoing dental treatment or other medical care to the extent that the procedure requires that no face covering may be worn.
  • During emergencies.

You must carry a face covering with you when leaving home, even if you don’t need to wear it while undertaking your current activity. For example, you can take your face covering off to eat or while you are running, but you must carry it with you and put it back on when you finish.

I have a medical condition that prevents me from wearing a face covering, do I need a medical certificate stating I don’t need to wear a face covering?

You do not need a medical certificate stating that you have a lawful reason for not wearing a face covering. If you have a lawful reason for not wearing a face covering, you do not need to apply for an exemption or permit.

If you are stopped by police, they will ask you to confirm the lawful reason you are not wearing a face covering.

Do I have to wear a face covering if I have asthma?

People with asthma or people who have a medical condition that includes problems with their breathing, do not have to wear face coverings.

Do people with a disability have to wear a face covering?

Yes, people with a disability must wear a face covering unless it is unsuitable to do so for medical, physical, communication or other individual risk factors.

Do residents of aged care facilities and other group homes need to wear face coverings at all times?

The requirement to wear face coverings applies when people are outside of their home. It does not apply to aged care residents or other group home residents while they are in the facility. However, it does apply to the facility’s staff and visitors, and when a resident leaves the facility.

What about people who have experienced trauma that makes it difficult for them to wear a face covering?

Some people who have past experiences of trauma are unable to wear a face covering due to psychological impacts. This is a valid reason not to wear or carry a face covering when you leave home.

What if I need to leave home as I fear for my safety or the safety of my children due to a family violence situation?

You do not have to wear a face covering when leaving home to seek emergency support and assistance because you or your children are escaping harm or are at risk of harm from family violence. If you are stopped by police, tell them you are feeling unsafe at home and they will help you.

Family violence frontline services, including crisis accommodation, continue to operate to support women, children and families during the coronavirus (COVID-19) emergency.

There are options for accessing safe housing if you need to leave a violent situation or you are not safe in your home.

Call safe steps on 1800 015 188 or email safesteps@safesteps.org.au for help 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

For more info visit Family violence support during coronavirus.

What about people who need to leave home in an emergency?

People who need to leave home in an emergency do not need to wear a face covering.

Can I take my face covering off if someone I am communicating with can’t hear me?

You can remove your face covering if you are communicating with a person who is deaf or hard of hearing, where the ability to see the mouth is essential for communication.

You should maintain physical distancing of 1.5 metres and if you need to cough or sneeze, do so into a tissue or your elbow. while keeping your face covering on

Cloth masks

How can I make a cloth mask?

Use our guide to make a cloth mask (PDF) that covers your nose and mouth and is made of washable fabric.

Tegar, Nancy and Amy from The Social Studio have produced a video to show the easy steps to make one yourself.

Watch how to make a cloth mask.

Does a cloth mask have to have three layers?

While the Chief Health Officer recommends a mask with three layers, any face mask or covering is better than none.

Can I wear a disposable mask?

Yes, however you should dispose of it after one use. You should dispose of your mask responsibly by putting it in the rubbish bin.

Can it just be a scarf or does it have to be a certain kind of face covering?

While the Chief Health Officer recommends a mask with three layers, any face mask or covering is better than none. This includes a scarf or bandana.

How do I wear a face covering correctly?

Cloth mask

A cloth mask should fit securely around the face, specifically covering the nose and the mouth areas. The mask should fit snugly on your face and be secured by ties at the back of your head or ear loops. If you are using a mask with ear loops, you can use a plastic clip or tie to join the ends together at the back of your head to make sure it fits snugly on your face.

Make sure that your mask does not have holes or any unfiltered one-way valves. This can result in breathing out the virus if you have coronavirus (COVID-19).

Wash your hands for at least 20 seconds with soap and water, or use hand sanitiser that is made up of over 60% alcohol, before putting on your mask and after taking it off. Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth at all times and store used cloth face masks in a plastic bag until you have an opportunity to wash them.

Surgical mask (single use)

  • Before putting on the mask, wash your hands for at least 20 seconds with soap and water, or use a hand sanitiser that is made up of over 60% alcohol.
  • Check for defects in the mask, such as tears or broken loops.
  • Position the outer side of the mask outward according to the instructions of the manufacturer.
  • If present, make sure the metallic strip is at the top of the mask and positioned against the bridge of your nose.
  • If the mask has:
    • ear loops: hold the mask by both ear loops and place one loop over each ear
    • ties: hold the mask by the upper strings. Tie the upper strings in a secure bow near the crown of your head. Tie the bottom strings securely in a bow near the nape of your neck
    • dual elastic bands: pull the bottom band over your head and position it against the nape of your neck. Pull the top band over your head and position it against the crown of your head.
  • Mould the bendable metallic upper strip to the shape of your nose by pinching and pressing down on it with your fingers.
  • Pull the bottom of the mask over your mouth and chin.
  • Be sure the mask fits snugly.
  • Don’t touch the mask once in position.

If the mask gets soiled or damp, replace it with a new one.

Face shields

Ensure they are properly designed to cover the sides of the face and below the chin. Reusable face shields should be cleaned and disinfected after each use. Disposable face shields should only be worn for single use. Ensure you follow the instructions as per manufacturers guidelines.

How do I know my cloth face mask is working?

You know your mask is working to protect you if it is well fitted. If the ties are loose, tighten them to ensure a snug fit. The mask should fit snugly and cover your nose and mouth. Keep an eye on the integrity of the fabric as it may thin over time with repeated washing. If this happens, replace the mask.

When should I wash my cloth mask?

A cloth mask should be washed each day after use. However, if during the day your mask is visibly dirty or wet, do not continue wearing your mask; the mask needs to be washed.

Re-using a cloth mask without washing is risky because it can become contaminated or may not be as effective in protecting you.

How do I wash my cloth mask?

Cloth masks can be washed in the washing machine with other clothes, or hand-washed using soap and the warmest appropriate water setting for the cloth.

Your cloth mask should be dry before re-using it. You can use the heat setting on your dryer or lay out flat to air dry. If possible, place the cloth mask in direct sunlight. Wash your hands after handling used face masks.

How do I know when it is time to get a new cloth mask?

Each cloth mask will be constructed differently, therefore there is no specific ‘shelf life’ of a cloth mask. However, the following are signs that your cloth mask may no longer be offering you the same level of protection it once was:

  • your cloth mask does not fit snugly on your face (e.g. you can feel your breath coming out of the sides of the mask)
  • your cloth mask keeps falling off or sliding down
  • there are holes in your cloth mask
  • you need to keep adjusting your cloth mask
  • the material has started to wear thin or fray.

Wearing a face covering

What are the different types of face coverings and which one should I use?

The most common types of face coverings are face masks and face shields.

The term ‘face mask’ includes cloth masks, and single-use face masks (commonly called surgical masks) Face masks that have unfiltered one-way valves should not be used.

Cloth masks are any nose and mouth covering made of washable fabric. We recommend a cloth mask made of three layers of a mix of breathable fabrics to ensure adequate protection. It does not need to be surgical quality to be effective.

Surgical masks are made with a non-woven meltblown polypropylene layer and available in various levels of protection. These are single use masks only so can’t be washed and used again.

The term ‘face shields’ refer to coverings that are made from plastic or other transparent material designed or made to be worn like a visor, covering from the forehead to below the chin area and wrapping around the sides of the face.

A scarf or bandana can be used as a face covering if you do not have access to a mask.

There are other types of face coverings and respirators (such as P2 or N95). These are not recommended for use in the community and not advised to be used outside of healthcare or specific industries under health advice.

Are face coverings effective for protecting against coronavirus (COVID-19) transmission?

Face coverings have been recommended around the world for use by the community to reduce transmission of coronavirus (COVID-19).

Your best protection is still to keep 1.5 metres apart from other people, to wash your hands thoroughly and regularly, and cough and sneeze into a tissue or your elbow.

Face coverings are helpful in containing droplets when people cough, reducing the likelihood of spreading the virus. For the community, both cloth masks and surgical masks are effective in reducing the transmission of coronavirus (COVID-19).

Where can I get a face covering?

You can purchase cloth masks or surgical masks from retail outlets including chemists, hardware stores and other shops or you can follow our directions to make your own cloth mask.

The Victorian Government has placed orders for reusable fabric masks for Victorian students and teachers.

23 million single-use masks have also been ordered by the Victorian Government. Single-use masks will also be distributed to schools for immediate use while the reusable masks are manufactured.

Around 500,000 single-use masks have already been provided to DHHS for public housing tower tenants and 1.2 million single-use masks have been provided to the Department of Education and Training (DET) for use in schools.

Can I remove my face covering to smoke or use an e-cigarette?

Yes, subject to existing restrictions on smoking in public places in Victoria. A person may remove their face covering to smoke or use an e-cigarette, but must put a face covering back on as soon as they finish.

The hand-to-mouth action of smoking and e-cigarette use means that people who smoke may be more vulnerable to coronavirus (COVID-19), as they are touching their face and mouth more often. You should wash your hands as soon as you finish and not share an individual cigarette or vaping device.

Can I take my face covering off when eating or drinking?

Yes. You can take your face covering off when eating or drinking. You should maintain physical distancing of 1.5 metres and practise good hygiene.

Eating and drinking should not be used as an excuse not to wear a face covering. You must use common sense and wear a face covering at all times where possible.

Do I need to put on a new face covering if I take it off to eat or drink?

If you are using a mask, it is best if you put on a new face covering to avoid the risk of contamination from touching the front of the face covering. If it is not possible, make sure to wash your hands with soap and water before you put on your face covering.

If you are using a reusable mask you should carry a paper bag or zip lock bag with you to carry clean masks and keep them clean. If it is not possible, make sure to wash your hands with soap and water or alcohol-based hand gel before you put on your face covering.

You should always wash your hands before and after changing your face covering.

Do I need to wear a face covering when I am driving?

If you are driving alone or only travelling with people from your household, you do not need to wear a face covering. You must put your face covering on before you leave your vehicle or if you wind down the window to talk to someone, including at a drive through to collect food or goods where being served by another person.

If you are driving with people for work or people you don’t live with then you must wear a face covering unless you have a lawful excuse.

You must wear a face covering if you are a passenger or driver in a commercial vehicle such as a taxi or Uber, unless you have a lawful excuse.

Do I need to wear a face covering when I visit my partner?

Partners living separately can visit each other at home. You do not need to wear a face covering while at home together.

How do I stop face covering fogging up my glasses?

Make sure the face covering is fitted and pinched on your nose if possible.  Put your glasses on after the mask. Wash your glasses with detergent and water to create a film to prevent fogging. You can also use micropore tape (available at all pharmacies) to tape the mask along the bridge of your nose and cheeks, then put your glasses on top. Or put a folded tissue across the bridge of your nose, then put your mask on and your glasses on top.

I wear a hearing aid, what tips do you have for me about wearing a face covering?

If you wear a hearing aid you need to be careful when putting on or taking off your face covering to ensure you don’t lose your hearing aid or get your face covering tangled in it. Consider using a face covering that ties around the head, rather than over the ears as this will keep the ties free from your hearing aid.

If you are having trouble communicating with someone who is wearing a face covering you can ask them to speak louder or to remove their covering during your conversation. You should maintain physical distancing of at least 1.5 metres from others.

What’s the best way to take off a face covering?

  • Wash your hands for at least 20 seconds with soap and water or use alcohol-based hand sanitiser containing at least 60% alcohol.
  • Don’t touch the front of the face covering or your face.
  • Carefully remove your face covering by grasping the ear loops or untying the ties. For face coverings with a pair of ties, unfasten the bottom one first, then the top one.
  • Fold the covering and put it directly into the laundry or into a disposable or washable bag for laundering. Single use surgical masks should be disposed of responsibly in the rubbish bin.
  • Clean your hands again by washing them or using alcohol-based hand sanitiser.

I’m using a reusable cloth mask; how often do I have to wash it?

A cloth mask can be washed and re-used. It should be washed after each time you use it and before you put it back on. It is a good idea to have at least two, so you always have a clean one available.

Carry a paper bag or zip lock bag with you to carry clean masks and keep them clean.

Single use masks are for single-use only and should be disposed of responsibly in the rubbish bin.

Can I remove my face covering to talk with other people?

You should keep your face covering on while speaking with other people and maintain a physical distance of 1.5 metres.

You can remove your face covering if you are communicating with a person who is deaf or hard of hearing, where the ability to see the mouth is essential for communication.

Exercise

Do I have to wear a face covering while exercising?

If you are doing exercise or physical activity where you are out of breath or puffing, such as jogging or running, you do not need to wear a face covering. You do have to carry a face covering with you so you can wear it before or after exercising, unless you have a lawful exception.

You must wear a face covering when walking for exercise even if the 1.5 metre physical distancing is maintained unless you have a lawful excuse such as a medical condition, where it would be dangerous to have obstructed breathing while walking around.

Will I be fined for not carrying a face covering with me when I exercise?

You must carry a face covering with you when you exercise unless you have a lawful excuse for not wearing a face covering such as a medical condition or are under the age of 12. You can be fined if you don’t wear or carry a face covering.

You can use a scarf or bandana instead of a face mask. You can also make your own face covering.

Study and school

Do children need to wear a face covering?

Children and people aged 12 years and older should wear a face covering. Children under the age of 12 years do not have to wear a face covering but individual families can make their own decisions regarding their children.

Children who are two years old and under should never wear a face covering due to choking and strangulation risks.

Will face coverings be mandatory for teachers/ early learning/ day care/ kinder?

It is not compulsory for teachers, educators and carers to wear face coverings while teaching or caring for children as they can interfere with their ability to clearly communicate with students. Teachers, educators and carers can choose to wear face coverings if they wish when in the classroom/ facility or when teaching or providing care for children.

Teachers, educators and carers should wear face coverings in other areas of the school/ facility when not teaching.

Do students at schools need to wear a face covering?

Students under the age of 12 do not have to wear face coverings. Students aged 12 and over will need to wear face coverings when they are attending school.

However, children who are aged 12 and over who are attending primary school do not need to wear a face covering at school. The Victorian Chief Health Officer has advised that it is not practical to require some primary school students to wear face coverings while others are not required to.

Students over 12 years old who attend a specialist school are not required to wear a face covering where their disability means it would not be suitable but may do so if they or their family choose to.

Do specialist school students need to wear a face covering?

Students over the age of 12 who attend a specialist school are not required to wear a face covering where their disability means it would not be suitable. However, if wearing a face covering is suitable for that student, they must wear one.

Work and volunteering

Do I have to wear a face covering while working?

Yes, you have to wear a face covering unless you meet one of the reasons for exemptions such as a medical condition.  

Can I take off my face covering if I find it uncomfortable while working?

It is important you wear your face covering when at work, but some people may require short breaks from wearing their face covering. If doing so, ensure you are not near other people, and follow this advice when removing your covering. Only a short break should be required.

Do I need to wear a face covering at my place of work or my desk, even if I am 1.5 metres away from others?

Yes. You must wear a face covering when you leave your home, which includes working, unless an exception applies.

I work from home – does this mean it is my workplace and I have to wear a face covering?

If you are working from home, you do not need to wear a face covering at home, unless you are caring for someone at home who has coronavirus (COVID-19).

As an employer, do I need to require my staff to wear face coverings?

Yes, you are required to ensure your employees wear face coverings if they are working, unless an exception applies.

I work in a call centre, do I need to wear a face covering when I am speaking with people on the telephone?

Yes, unless an exception applies. Due to the number of people who work closely together in call centres, these workplaces represent a risk for transmission of coronavirus (COVID-19).

Do construction workers have to wear a face covering?

Yes, unless an exception applies. Construction workers will have to wear a face covering unless they meet any of the criteria for exception such as a medical condition or if wearing a face covering creates a risk to the person related to their work, as determined through OH&S guidelines.

Shopping and retail

Can I refuse someone access to my premises if they are not wearing a face covering?

Yes. You can ask someone not to enter your premises if they are not wearing a face covering unless they have a lawful reason not to wear a face covering.

Can I be refused entry or service if I am not wearing a face covering?

Yes, unless you have a lawful exception for not wearing a face covering. For their own and other customers’ safety, a business owner or worker can ask you not to enter until you wear a face covering such as a mask.

Can someone ask me to remove my face covering to check my ID?

Banks, police, post offices and other services can ask that you remove your face covering to check your identity.

When purchasing alcohol or tobacco you may be asked by staff to remove your face covering as part of checking your ID.

Victoria Police can also ask you to remove your face covering to confirm your identity.

Will business owners be fined if customers refuse to wear face coverings?

A business owner will not be fined if a customer refuses to wear a face covering without a lawful excuse. The penalty would be applied to the customer.

As a business owner, if a staff member or customer refuses to wear a face covering will I be fined?

Responsibility for wearing a face covering rests with the individual. Individuals who do not wear a face covering and do not have a lawful reason can be fined $200. A business owner will not be fined if a customer refuses to wear a face covering.

An employer must take reasonable steps to ensure an employee that is working at the employer’s premises wears a face covering at all times when working at the employer’s premises, unless a lawful exception applies.

Enforcement

What happens if I don’t wear a face covering?

We are asking everyone to wear face coverings when they leave home to help slow the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19), unless a lawful exception applies. Fines will be applied to people who do not wear a face covering unless they have a valid reason for an exemption.

Will I be fined for not carrying a face covering with me?

You must carry a face covering with you unless you have a lawful excuse for not wearing a face covering such as a medical condition or are under the age of 12. You can be fined if you don’t wear or carry a face covering.

You can also use a scarf or bandana instead of a face covering.  You can also make your own face covering (Word).