Face masks

Face masks are an additional physical barrier to help stop the spread of COVID-19. Children under 12 years of age are not required to wear a mask.

Currently, masks are mandatory in some settings. People are encouraged to wear masks in other environments, particularly if unable to physically distance.

Masks or face coverings should NOT be worn by children under the age of 2 or anyone who has trouble breathing, is unconscious, incapacitated, or otherwise unable to remove the mask without assistance.

A suitable face mask includes reusable cloth masks, and single-use face masks (commonly called surgical masks) that covers the nose and mouth.

Scarves, bandannas, snoods (or ‘gaiters’) and face shields on their own are not adequate substitutes for masks.

Please be respectful to others as reasons for not wearing a mask are not always obvious.

Mandatory mask use

If you are a close contact you must wear a mask when you leave the house for 7 days after exposure. Read more about close contact requirements.

It is mandatory for all people to wear masks in:

  • disability care facilities
  • residential aged care facilities
  • public or private hospitals
  • health care services
  • pharmacies
  • pathology collection centres
  • passenger transport services (including taxis, rideshare and other hire or charter vehicle arrangements)
  • airplanes

Health care services include the following premises:

  • private and public hospitals
  • general practice
  • medical specialist services and practices
  • mental health services and practices including drug and alcohol services
  • allied health services, including those provided by a counsellor, speech pathologist, sonographer, social worker, rehabilitation counsellor, radiation therapist, radiographer, psychologist, prosthetist / orthotist, podiatrist, physiotherapist, music therapist, osteopath, orthoptist, optometrist, occupational therapist, genetic counsellor, exercise physiologist, dietitian, counsellor, chiropractor, audiologist, art/creative art therapist, or bowen therapist
  • complementary and alternative therapy services and practices including Chinese medicine practitioners
  • community health services including Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services
  • dental services
  • reproductive services and sexual health services including termination of pregnancy
  • radiology services including screening services
  • disability and rehabilitation services.

This requirement does not apply to a person who is an in-patient at a health care service or a resident of a disability or residential aged care facility.

Exceptions

There are circumstances where it might not be possible to wear a face mask including:

  • people who may have a physical or mental health illness or condition, or disability, which makes wearing a face covering unsuitable, including persons with obstructed breathing, a serious skin condition of the face, an intellectual disability, a mental health condition or persons who have experienced trauma.
  • people communicating with those who are deaf or hard of hearing and visibility of the mouth is essential for communication.
  • people who wear hearing aids of a style that makes wearing masks difficult and where an alternative style of mask (with ties rather than ear loops) is not available.
  • when consuming food, drink or medicine.
  • where removal of the mask is lawfully required for identification purposes.
  • children under 12 years of age.
  • people required to wear other face coverings or protective equipment, such as a dust respirator mask, this counts as wearing a mask.

For more information on mandatory mask use, visit Emergency Management (Activities—General) (COVID-19) Direction 2021.

Wearing a face mask

  • Consider having more than one mask on hand so that you can easily replace a dirty mask with a clean one.
  • Cloth masks should be made of three layers of a mix of breathable fabrics, to ensure adequate protection.
  • Cloth masks are inexpensive and easy to make.
  • You can buy single-use surgical and cloth masks from a number of retail outlets.
  • A single-use surgical mask should be changed at least every four hours, or if it is compromised (for example, damp or damaged). Consider timing meal or bathroom breaks with mask changes.
  • Make sure that your mask does not have holes or a valve. This can result in breathing out the virus if you have COVID-19.
  • Make sure your mask is not wet, otherwise it will not function correctly.
  • Scarves, bandannas, snoods (or ‘gaiters’) and face shields on their own are not adequate substitutes for masks.

How to fit your mask correctly

  • If you wear a mask, you need to wear it properly to make sure its effective.
  • A mask should fit securely around your face, covering both your nose and mouth areas at all times.
  • Make sure the mask fits snugly under your chin, over the bridge of your nose and against the sides of your face.
  • It should be snug and secured with ties at the back of your head, or by ear loops.

How to put on your mask safely

  • Before putting the mask on, wash your hands for at least 20 seconds with soap and water, or use hand sanitiser that is made up of over 60 per cent alcohol.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, mouth at all times.

During use

  • Do not touch the front of your mask while wearing it.
  • If you do touch the mask, wash or sanitise your hands immediately.
  • Do not allow the mask to hang around your neck, this includes when eating and drinking.
  • Do not allow the mask to sit under your nose.

After use

  • Use the ties or ear loops to remove the mask.
  • Do not touch the front of your mask while removing it.
  • Store cloth face masks in a plastic bag until you have an opportunity to wash them.
  • Wash your cloth mask whenever it gets dirty or at least daily. If your mask is wet or dirty from sweat, saliva, make-up, or other liquids or substances, keep it in a sealed plastic bag until you can wash it.
  • If you are taking off your mask to eat or drink outside of your home, you can place it somewhere safe to keep it clean, such as your pocket, purse, or paper bag.
  • Single-use masks should not be re-used, and should be thrown away after each use.
  • Wash your hands for at least 20 seconds with soap and water, or use hand sanitiser that is made up of over 60 per cent alcohol.
  • Do not dispose of masks into a recycling bin. Dispose in a bag or lined bin.

Further information and resources

How to wear a mask: Australia's Chief Nurse and Midwifery Officer


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