What do Victoria’s new vaccination and mask rules mean for you?

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New public health orders regulating the use of masks and COVID-19 vaccine certificates will come into effect from 11.59pm on Wednesday as Victoria moves away from relying on state of emergency powers to operating under new pandemic laws.

Although Victoria’s vaccination rate is above 92 per cent for people aged 12 and over, health authorities are taking a cautious approach to restrictions because of the uncertainty surrounding the new Omicron strain of the virus.

The full impact of the strain is still largely unknown, but early analysis by South African researchers indicates the variant appears to cause less severe disease than previous variants of COVID-19. It is, however, more transmissible.

Omicron has overcome Delta as the main strain of the virus in South Africa, accounting for more than 90 per cent of all new infections in the country. It has also caused a “tidal wave” of infections in the UK, which has recorded the first death of a patient infected with the strain worldwide.

In Australia, NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard says health authorities are anticipating the state could see 25,000 COVID-19 cases a day by the end of January as the Omicron variant spreads. On Wednesday, there were 110 confirmed Omicron cases in the state. Victoria has so far confirmed 10 cases of the variant.

Keep reading to learn how Victoria’s new rules affect you.


Face masks

From 11.59pm on Wednesday and until January 12, 2022:

  • Mandatory in retail settings such as supermarkets and shops;
  • Required for hospitality workers at cafes, bars and pubs;
  • Not required for attendees at weddings, funerals and other ceremonial events.

Masks will remain mandatory for retail settings. Credit:Luis Ascui


Proof of vaccination

Once the new rules come into effect, Victorians will no longer need to show proof of their COVID-19 vaccination status if:

  • They are shopping at essential or non-essential retail outlets;
  • They are under the age of 18;
  • They are attending places of worship, weddings, funerals or real estate settings such as auctions and open houses.

Proof of vaccination will still be required for Victorians aged 18 and over in:

  • Restaurants;
  • Cafes;
  • Hair salons;
  • Beauty services.

Cleaning

From midnight on Wednesday, workplaces exposed to a positive coronavirus case will no longer need to be deep cleaned as required under current rules.

The following venues won’t be required to deep clean equipment after each session either:

  • Tour and transport operators;
  • Gyms;
  • Theatres;
  • Cinemas;
  • Other creative arts premises.

Workplaces will still be required to enact COVID-safe plans.

The change in cleaning requirements follows mounting international evidence backing the theory that COVID-19 is an airborne or droplet-borne disease, meaning the likelihood of becoming infected after touching surfaces is very low.

Cleaning requirements for workplaces in Victoria have also changed. Credit:Jason South


Elective surgeries

Elective procedures such as cosmetic surgery will be scaled back to 75 per cent at:

  • Rural health facilities;
  • Regional hospitals.

They will remain at 50 per cent capacity at:

  • Metropolitan hospitals.

Religion

  • No mask requirements for weddings, funerals, and ceremonial events;
  • No need to show proof of vaccination at places of worship, weddings and funerals unless they are held at a restaurant;
  • No limits to participants in a place of worship.

Real estate

  • No need to show proof of vaccination to attend auctions or home openings.

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