We’re at one of the most uncertain points for the country so far in the pandemic, and some Australians are being told to wear face masks for the first time.
Even though we’re 18 months into the pandemic, this is the first time masks have been required in parts of the NT, WA, Queensland, New South Wales, the ACT and Victoria at the same time.
Face masks are also required around the country in airports and aboard planes.
So if you’ve been asked to wear a mask outside your home for the first time, here’s what you need to know,
The rules vary from state to state, but currently rules for mask use in the community are in place for:
- All of NSW
- All of the ACT
- All of Victoria
- South-east Queensland including Brisbane, Gold Coast and Sunshine Coast
- Perth and Peel in WA
- Greater Darwin in the NT
You should check with your state or territory’s health department for specifics, but generally masks are required for people aged over 12 at indoor locations like supermarkets, and outdoor locations where you can’t socially distance.
The changes reflect concern about the infectious potential of the Delta variant of COVID-19, and authorities say if you’re ever in doubt about whether a mask should be worn, you should put one on.
How to wear a mask
The federal Health Department gives this advice for putting a mask on:
- Wash your hands before putting on the mask
- Make sure it covers your nose and mouth and fits snugly under your chin, over the bridge of your nose and against the sides of your face.
- Do not touch the front of the mask while it is on or when removing it (and if you do so accidentally, wash or clean your hands immediately)
- Wash your hands after removing the mask
The most common kinds of masks are disposable masks and cloth masks.
If wearing a coloured disposable mask, the WHO says you’ll want to ensure the blue side is facing outwards and the horizontal edge with a metal strip should run along the bridge of your nose.
Masks made of fabric should be taken off and replaced when they become damp.
Cloth masks can be reusable if washed after each use. Health guidelines say they should be washed in the washing machine with other clothes or hand washed using soap and warm water.
They need to be completely dry before use.
But you shouldn’t reuse disposable or single-use masks — the WHO recommends single-use masks be disposed of in closed bins to avoid contamination.
I don’t have a mask — where can I get one?
Masks are readily available at pharmacies around the country, and can also be purchased online.
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