Victorians have been ordered to wear face masks in all indoor public spaces as part of major changes to the state’s social distancing measures.
The state’s Deputy Premier James Merlino said from 11.59pm on Thursday face coverings would once again be mandatory for patrons at cafes, restaurants and pubs in a bid to stem the spread of the new Omicron variant.
Residents attending major events with more than 30,000 spectators will also have to wear a face mask.
Mr Merlino said Victorians should also now work from home if they can and urged hospitality venues to switch to a seated-only service to reduce transmission.
Victoria earlier in the day confirmed another 2,005 new infections and ten deaths – up from the 1,503 cases recorded on Wednesday.
The move marks the first significant change in Covid restrictions in any state since an emergency meeting of the national cabinet on Wednesday to discuss the emergence of the hyper-contagious strain.
Victorians have been ordered to wear face masks in all indoor public spaces from 11.59pm on Thursday night. Pictured is a pop-up Covid clinic in Melbourne’s north
The deputy premier said the changes were ‘modest measures’ that would protect the state’s health system from the recent surge in infections.
‘Masks have a very small individual cost for us,’ he said. They have a terrific impact on transmission – that is as true for Omicron as for any variant.’
Premier Daniel Andrews did not appear at Thursday’s Covid press conference but did briefly interrupt his holiday to attend Wednesday’s national cabinet meeting.
There are 398 Victorians receiving care in hospital with 72 in intensive care, a small increase from 394 in hospital and 70 in ICU on Wednesday.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison this week urged states not to re-introduce mask mandates, saying Australians should by this point in the pandemic know when and when not to wear a face covering.
‘Wear a mask in an indoor setting. You don’t need to be forced to do it,’ he said.
Shoppers walk along Bourke Street Mall on December 22. Covid-19 case numbers are on the increase across the state with 2,005 new infections and ten deaths reported on Thursday
Deputy Premier James Merlino urged hospitality venues to switch to a seated-only service to reduce transmission
‘Think of Christmas Day when you’re going to see elderly relatives, and wear a mask – it’s pretty simple.’
Mr Merlino’s NSW counterpart Dominic Perrottet has refused to bring back a sweeping indoor mask mandate – despite many health experts recommending residents continue wearing the face coverings indoors.
More to come