Mask rules will cover all of Victoria as new COVID-19 cases climb to 723

Mask rules will cover all of Victoria as new COVID-19 cases climb to 723

After a new daily record of 723 COVID-19 cases in Victoria, Premier Daniel Andrews is rolling out two new measures to "jealously guard" the low number of infections in regional areas.

Masks will be made mandatory across the whole state as of midnight on Sunday, while as of midnight tonight residents in the Geelong corridor will not be allowed to have visitors to their homes. 

Of the 5,385 active cases in the state just 255 are in regional areas, but a high percentage of those happen to be in the Geelong region. 

In response, residents in Colac-Otway, Greater Geelong, Surf Coast, Moorabool, Golden Plains, and the Borough of Queenscliffe, will no longer be allowed to have visitors as of 11:59pm tonight.

"To date, new cases in regional communities have largely been contained to workplaces. Increasingly though in some locations we're seeing a different kind of spread," Andrews said.

"Understandably, there'll be plenty of questions about why this and not that. Why you can have dinner together at a restaurant but not at a mate's place?

"And the simple truth is the data - the data is telling us that outside work this is the single greatest cause of transmission in these communities. People are visiting friends and family and taking the virus home with them."

He said this made sense, as these were the occasions when people tended to let their guards down, relaxing and forgetting about social distancing rules to stay safe. 

There were 13 new deaths overnight, and the total number of confirmed infections since the pandemic began is now just below 10,000.

The Premier said the decision to make masks required state-wide was because it could be implemented without causing a significant economic cost but get a really significant public health benefit.

"I understand this will a big step for some. But by covering your face, you're protecting your community, and protecting those extra freedoms your community enjoys," Andrews said.

"From midnight Sunday, everyone in regional Victoria and therefore everyone across the whole state will have to wear a mask, and I stress, or a face covering, whenever they're out of their home."

Usual exemptions that are now well understood in Metropolitan Melbourne and Mitchell Shire, such as strenuous exercise, will also apply to regional Victoria. 

"But I don't think this is the biggest leap...many, many people in regional Victoria where they have that sense that they can't distance, can't maintain that 1.5 metres apart, are already wearing masks," he said. 

"Both these decisions are on the advice of the chief health officer...we have low numbers in regional Victoria, and we want to jealously guard that - we want to keep those numbers low.

"These are preventative steps. They're an abundance of caution approach."

Victorians going to work while sick with COVID-19

Shockingly, Andrews today revealed that there is a small number of people still going to work after testing positive for COVID-19.

He says, as part of Australian Defence Force's doorknocking program, they have come across a number of people who were not at home depsite being infected with the virus and were instead out at work.

"If you're a positive case then you need to be at home and you need to be isolating," says Andrews.

"These numbers today are a reflection of increased cases in aged care, that's one element...But the key point here is that too many people are still going to work when they have symptoms.

"So long as that continues then we will continue to see numbers go up. To put it another way, we will not get businesses reopened and we will not see many businesses long as people continue to go to work when they are unwell."

A $300 Test Isolation Payment is available to eligible Victorians, including parents and guardians of children, who are required to self-isolate while waiting for the results of a coronavirus test.

Further, a $1,500 payment is available to those who have been asked to self-isolate or quarantine at home either for those diagnosed with coronavirus or those who are a close contact of a confirmed case.

Update: An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated that there were 732 new cases of COVID-19 in Victoria today. The actual number is 723 new cases.

Updated at 11:35am AEST on 30 July 2020.

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