Melbourne makes masks mandatory as city's lockdown expected to be extended amid coronavirus spike

People wearing face masks to help protect against the spread of the new coronavirus walk in the central business district in Melbourne. Credit: AP

Face coverings have been made mandatory in Australia's coronavirus hot spot Victoria as the state saw a daily Covid-19 cases record. Residents in the state capital Melbourne and neighbouring districts have been on a six-week lockdown that is likely to be extended after 723 new cases were reported on Thursday, breaking the previous record of 532 cases seen on Monday. The state also saw a daily record 13 deaths, bringing the state-wide total to 105. Face coverings were made mandatory in Australia's second largest city and a semi-rural suburb this week, but Victoria Premier Daniel Andrews said the measure will be extended state-wide from Sunday.

Mr Andrews said extending mandatory masks and banning visitors to homes are meant to keep the infection rates down.

New measures announced around the city of Geelong mean residents will not be allowed to have visitors in their homes from Thursday evening, but they will still be able to go to the pub. “We have low (COVID-19) numbers in regional Victoria and we want to jealously guard that,” Mr Andrews said.

Bondi Beach in Sydney in April. Credit: AP

Victoria’s daily infection count has been fluctuating but new cases of unknown origin continue to hover at around 50 a day.

Critics of the Victoria government’s new rural restrictions question why people in the Geelong region will be able to meet friends at a pub but not in their homes.

“There doesn’t seem to be any rhyme or reason to the restrictions,” Jason Schram, mayor of Colac, which is covered by the new Geelong restrictions, told Melbourne Radio 3AW.

“It just seems like they’ve done this to say: ‘We’re doing something in these regional area hot spots,’” he added.

Iatrou, who owns a Melbourne café, says city residents have become much more reticent to go out to buy a takeaway coffee as the infection numbers climb.

“It’s surprising, it’s eye-opening and it’s quite scary if we can’t get a handle on it,” she said.

“At the moment, the numbers sound big to us because we haven’t had to deal with the numbers that a lot of countries in the world have had to deal with.”