In Australia, those in the state of Victoria's locked-down zones now have to wear face masks whenever they leave the house - sparking calls from some that face coverings should be provided for free.

Five million Victorians will be expected to wear a mask when they head outside from today and anyone caught without one could face a $200 fine.

Residents in NSW are also being asked to wear masks if they are out in public and cannot socially distance, as the number of coronavirus cases in the state increases.

Premier Daniel Andrews has said the face coverings do not have to be a hospital-grade mask.

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"A handkerchief, a bandana, a scarf — any covering is better than no covering," he said.

But despite the flexibility of the rules around the type of mask that should be worn, many believe the state should be providing them for free if they are to be compulsory.

A Facebook poll done by news.com.au found 71 per cent thought masks should be free if people were being forced to wear them.

There were nearly 400 comments on the Facebook post, with some suggesting there should be one free reusable mask for every Australian, while many others said masks should not be free but prices should be set.

"When we lived in Singapore a number of years ago and had to wear masks due to issues with poor air quality, we received four masks in the post to every household, also all workplaces were providing masks for their employees as well. It was fantastic," Ingrid Whitford wrote. "Why can't the government do this? We still purchased a few but it was helpful to have those initial ones. Maybe they should have done the same with toilet paper."

Should face masks be free if it's compulsory to wear them?
Full story: https://newscomau.org/2OIbeZN

Posted by news.com.au on Tuesday, July 21, 2020

University of NSW Professor Mary-Louise McLaws, who is a member of a WHO advisory panel on Covid-19, said if authorities wanted to ensure full compliance with rules around face masks, they needed to provide masks to encourage rapid acceptance and uptake.

She pointed out that during the HIV epidemic, condoms weren't initially given out freely.

"Someone might not think a couple of dollars is expensive but for someone who is underemployed or not employed, it is expensive," she said.

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She said in Europe, free masks were being provided at train stations, bus stations and shopping malls.

"Medical-grade masks stop working once they are damp and if it is dirty that's a good indication you need to change masks," she said.

"It's only reasonable to provide a supply freely so people can change their masks.

"If you've got a fabric mask you have to wash it at night, you may want a government mask to use so that while it's drying you've got a mask."

Victoria's Premier Daniel Andrews said on Thursday there would be a government rollout of masks, possibly through GP practices.

"We will have more to say very, very soon about the first of our massive order of mask reusables, and where they'll be distributed," he said.

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"There'll be more than two million masks, the first order of which comes in this week, and in good time, we'll be able to give you an update on that."

Victorian authorities are asking people to wear a mask every time they leave their home and also while they are at work.

Victoria's chief health officer Brett Sutton said some people would have a legitimate reason not to wear a mask.

"You will see some people who were not wearing masks and a number of them are legitimately not able to wear masks so please don't vilify individuals or don't make the assumption that they are simply stubborn and refusing to wear masks," he told reporters on Wednesday.

"There will be people with medical behavioural, psychological reasons not to wear a mask. Certainly don't make an assumption that they should be the subject of your ire."

Victorian authorities say 23 million single-use masks have been ordered and will be distributed while reusable masks are made.

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About 500,000 masks have already been provided for public housing tower tenants and 1.2 million single-use masks for schools.

All students aged 12 and over, and staff who are attending school in locked-down areas, will be required to wear a mask while at school. Students will be expected to provide their own mask but will be provided one if they are unable to do so.

Reusable masks will also be available for staff at both government and non-government schools. Teachers don't have to wear them while teaching students but they are expected to be worn at other times. Specialist schools and primary schools are exempt from this rule.