THE Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) is urging people in regional Victoria to ‘mask up’ to help stop the spread of COVID-19.

The rules on wearing a mask or face covering differ depending on where you live. The Victorian government made it mandatory for people over the age of 12 in metropolitan Melbourne and Mitchell Shire on July 22, following a concerning rise in COVID-19 cases. National advice is to wear a mask or face covering in areas of community transmission where social distancing cannot be maintained.

RACGP Victoria chair, Dr Cameron Loy, encouraged people living in regional Australia to be cautious and wear a mask or face covering in public if it’s difficult to keep a physical distance.

“Now is the time for people in regional Victoria to be cautious and act with common sense,” Dr Loy said.

“We have a long way to go to beat COVID-19, and we are seeing community transmission of COVID-19 in some regional areas.

“Wearing a face covering will help stop transmission, which is what everyone wants, the sooner people ‘mask up’ in Victoria, especially in areas of community transmission, the sooner we will get on top of this virus.

“It’s especially important to protect smaller regional communities from COVID-19 as they tend to have fewer medical resources to cope with the virus – there may be just one GP and no local hospital.”

People living in regional areas are required to wear a face covering if they enter the metropolitan Melbourne or Mitchell Shire area.

Dr Loy noted that some people may not be able to wear a face mask or covering.

“While most people should be able to wear a face covering, there are some who will have a legitimate reason not to. It goes without saying that these people must not be discriminated against or ostracised.”

Dr Loy said GPs cannot provide ‘exemptions’ and can only provide their assessment of their patient’s medical conditions which may mean they cannot wear a face covering.

“GPs should act wisely in providing medical certificates. It is for the greater public health good that all those who can wear a face covering, do.

“In these difficult times when we are seeing community transmission in many places, we all need to do our bit.

“If you live in regional Victoria you should consider wearing a mask when you go outside and you can’t keep a physical distance – this is about protecting yourself, your loved ones and everyone else in our community.

“And remember a face mask or covering is not a suit of armour against COVID-19 – people still need to follow the other advice to stay safe, including maintaining a physical distance of 1.5m from others, regular hand washing, and cough and sneezing into your elbow.”