Victoria’s new mask laws – what do they mean for those working in ECEC?

by Freya Lucas

July 20, 2020

Effective Wednesday 22 July those living in metropolitan Melbourne and Mitchell Shire will now be required to wear a face covering when leaving home for one of the four allowable reasons following a “concerning increase” in coronavirus cases in recent days, Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews announced over the weekend. 

 

Based on the latest advice from the Chief Health Officer, Premier Andrews urged Victorians “just as you remember to take your keys when you leave the house, you need to remember to take something to cover your face – to help keep you and our community safe”.

 

For those who work in the early childhood education and care (ECEC) sector, questions began circulating almost immediately following the announcement, which outlined that children under 12 years of age did not require masks, and that masks were not necessary “in schools”, with the announcement not clarifying the situation for those working in the ECEC sector. 

In our schools, that’ll mean teachers don’t have to wear a face covering while teaching – but students attending for VCE, VCAL or for onsite supervision will, while everyone will be expected to wear one on the way to and from school.

It is expected that the Department of Education and Training will release updated communication shortly which is specific to the ECEC sector, but in the interim, guidance for schools should also be followed in ECEC. 

 

The new rule won’t be enforced until after 11.59pm on Wednesday 22 July, however the Premier requested that, “for those who can, please start wearing yours immediately”. The fine for not wearing a face covering will be $200.

 

People with a valid medical reason, children under the age of 12, those who have a professional reason, or for times when mask wearing is not practical – for example while running – exemptions will be made, however individuals will “still be expected to carry your face covering at all times to wear when you can”.

 

The Government will work with Victorian industry and unions to provide advice to workplaces in the coming days, with an additional recommendation made that those in regional Victoria use a face mask in situations where maintaining 1.5 metres distance is not possible. Regional Victorians will have to wear a mask when visiting metropolitan Melbourne or Mitchell Shire for one of the permitted reasons.

 

The State of Emergency has also been extended until 11.59pm on 16 August 2020, allowing for the enforcement of this direction and other vital public health directions from the Chief Health Officer.

 

The Victorian Government’s one-off $1500 worker support payment is still available to support Victorian workers who have been instructed to stay home because they’ve had a positive test or need to self-isolate as a close contact.

 

Further information is available here. The Sector will continue to provide ECEC relevant updates as they come to hand. 

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