By Cam Lucadou-Wells
Mask wearing will become mandatory as Melbourne’s alarming Covid-19 spike spreads into Greater Dandenong and the South East.
After weeks of little infection, Greater Dandenong gained 31 in the seven days up to 19 July.
Its active cases rose from four to 33.
Recent clusters have been reported at Endeavour Hills shopping centre, TD Cabinets in Dandenong South and Australian Pharmaceuticals Industries in Dandenong.
In neighbouring Casey, there were 62 new cases in the past week, and a total of 70 active cases.
There were also double-digit active cases in Monash (31), Cardinia (15), Kingston (14) and Knox (13). Frankston’s active cases were nine.
With Victorian cases soaring by 1900 in the past week, Premier Daniel Andrews announced that mask wearing will be compulsory outside the home after 11.59pm on Wednesday 22 July.
A valid mask can be surgical or home-made, as simple as a scarf or cloth face-covering across the mouth and nose.
A $200 fine will apply for not wearing a mask, except for medical reasons, professional reasons, children under 12 and during exercise like running.
It was about “embedding new habits”, Mr Andrews said. A mask should become a “new routine” for people going out, like taking their keys and phone.
“I understand this is a big shift and that not being able to see each other’s faces might be confronting,” Mr Andrews said.
“But this virus is incredibly infectious – and this is about keeping people safe.
“By covering our faces, we’re protecting ourselves, our families and every single Victorian.”
He said the Government was not yet at the step of further restrictions, such as limiting people to their own postcodes.
Mr Andrews urged people to stay at home where possible, following stage-3 restrictions to limit the spread of the pandemic.
Recently, five people were fined $1652 each for a public gathering in Dandenong, as well a KFC customer who insisted on eating his meal in the restaurant.
Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton said universal mask-wearing was a “low-cost impost” to stop the Covid-19 “numbers roller-coaster”.
For weeks, Covid-19 numbers have been highest in Melbourne’s outer west and north. Currently there are 340 active cases in Wyndham and 300 in Hume.
In the past week, Victoria recorded 14 deaths from coronavirus. As of 19 July, the state had 2837 active cases and 166 infected health-care workers.
At Endeavour Hills shopping centre, two “back of store” workers at Kmart and one at UR Next Hairdressing tested positive for Covid-19.
According to the shopping centre, the Kmart workers were “not customer-facing”. Their respective last shifts were 9 and 10 July.
The Kmart store was closed for deep cleaning on 14 July, and re-opened the next day.
Meanwhile the UR Next hairdresser took their Covid test on 3 July, received the ‘positive’ result on 9 July and the salon was closed for cleaning on 10 July.
It was set to re-open on 18 July.
“All staff and customers who came in close contact with the staff members have been contacted by the Department of Health & Human Services Victoria (DHHS),” the shopping centre stated.
At least five workers at TD Cabinets were reported as infected on 15 July, after one of them had reported sick.
On 19 July, health authorities announced three cases linked to Australian Pharmaceutical Industries.