Author: VicHealth works with health promotion experts to create a Victoria where everyone can enjoy better health and wellbeing.   Last updated: 09 Dec, 2020

Masks have become mandatory for all Victorians, so if you’re wondering why, and how you can get one as cheaply as possible, this is for you.

Any coronavirus information mentioned is accurate at the time this article was originally published (22 July 2020). For the most up-to-date information about coronavirus restrictions, please visit the source:


First of all, if you live within metropolitan Melbourne and Mitchell Shire there are only four reasons to leave home:

  • Shopping for food and supplies
  • Medical care and caregiving
  • Exercise and recreation
  • Study and work – if you can’t do it from home

When leaving home for one of the four reasons above, people 12 years and older must wear a cloth or surgical mask, or some form of face covering. For more information about the Department of Health’s latest update on mandatory masks visit their website here.


Why are face masks mandatory in Victoria?

Victoria’s Chief Health Officer has updated the advice on wearing masks in public due to new studies on the effectiveness of face masks in reducing transmission of coronavirus.


From Sunday 2 August at 11:59pm, a face covering will be mandatory whenever you leave home – and wherever you live (in Victoria).


The science shows that when used properly, face masks provide an added layer of protection to slow the spread of coronavirus. This is necessary because it’s not always possible to maintain physical distancing, such as in a supermarket aisle or shopping centre, on a narrow footpath, in a taxi or on public transport. It’s better to protect yourself and others in all these scenarios by wearing a mask.


What if you can’t buy a mask?

First of all, it’s important to note that a face covering is not limited to single use disposable masks. The Chief Health Officer says it's fine to either buy or make a reusable cloth mask.


Cloth masks are any nose and mouth covering made of washable fabric. The Department of Health recommends a cloth mask made of three layers of a mix of breathable fabrics. Watch their video on how to make a mask below.


If you really can’t buy or make a cloth mask, you can wear a scarf over your face instead, just make sure it’s properly secured so it won’t come loose while you’re out and about, as you shouldn’t be touching your face covering with your hands.


Top tip: A cloth mask can be washed with detergent and water and re-used. It’s a good idea to have at least two, so you always have a clean one available.

How to wear a cloth mask properly

All masks should fit securely around your face, covering your nose and mouth.


Ensure your cloth mask fits snugly on your face and can be secured by ties at the back of your head, or ear loops. If it has 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.



How to wear a single use mask properly

All masks should fit securely around your face, covering your nose and mouth.


If you want to wear single use masks, make sure you position the coloured side of the mask outward. If the mask has a metallic strip, make sure it’s at the top of the mask along the bridge of your nose to ensure your nose and mouth are properly covered.



If the single use 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


Top tip: make sure your mask is properly fitted by putting it on at home, that way you can use a mirror to check it’s fitted properly and reduce any risk of contamination by waiting to put it on outside or in your car.

Don’t touch your mask once it’s on, until you can wash your hands first

Once you have the mask on, don’t touch it again until you’re at home and you can wash your hands.


That means once you have the mask on, you should not remove or pull down the mask in public, as it would stop being a protective barrier once touched. So, if you run into a friend on the street or while you're at the checkout of a supermarket, keep the mask in place while having a conversation.


Top tip: if the mask gets soiled or damp, it’s time to replace it with a new one.

Can I drive without a mask?

If you’re in car share service or taxi you must wear a mask.


If you are in the car alone or with members of your household, you don’t need to wear a mask.



Top tip: putting a mask on in your car can be tricky, so remember to put the mask on inside your home. Wash your hands thoroughly before placing the mask on your face and check it covers your nose and mouth properly before you grab your keys and head out the door.

Do I have to wear a mask while exercising?

Yes, if you’re outside of your home for exercise, you must wear a mask. You’re able to remove the mask if you’re doing strenuous exercise where you’re out of breath (i.e. running, cycling). You still need to have a mask on you (keep it in your pocket in a zip lock plastic bag) and put the mask back on if you’re walking before/after your strenuous activity.  


Top tip: if you’re concerned about running without a mask, change up your routine to walking or try skipping or star jumps at home to get your heart rate up.

Wearing a mask may feel a little different, and that’s okay!

For many Victorians, wearing a mask might feel strange at first, but it’s important for everyone to wear one to protect themselves and others from coronavirus.


If you’re feeling a bit uncomfortable, try these tips:

  • Practice at home

Try putting the mask on at home and get used to how it feels to be wearing it before you wear it in public for the first time


  • Test your speaking volume

Try speaking to someone in your household to see how loud you need to speak with a mask on. This could be useful to know if you need to communicate in a noisy supermarket.


  • Talk about your feelings with your friends and colleagues

If you’re feeling nervous about wearing a mask in public, you’re not alone. It can be helpful to share your experience by talking to others in your household or online.


We all have a role to protect and support our community through the coronavirus pandemic, wearing a mask is something we all can do to help protect ourselves and others.


It’s important to remember there’s a lot of misinformation about the safety of masks on the internet. For coronavirus information from the health experts visit the Department of Health and Human Service’s website here.


Have a coronavirus question?

For all coronavirus questions visit or call the Victorian Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) hotline on 1800 020 080.


Department of Health and Human Services graphic