Face masks required in Canberra in wake of Sydney Covid outbreak

Andrew Barr wears a mask ahead of the new mandate starting at midnight on Sunday. Picture: Keegan Carroll
Andrew Barr wears a mask ahead of the new mandate starting at midnight on Sunday. Picture: Keegan Carroll

The wearing of face masks became mandatory in the ACT at midnight, and the requirement will likely continue for the next two weeks.

ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr said while the territory was yet to record a case of COVID-19 as a result of the latest Sydney outbreak, there were thousands in the city who had recently been in greater Sydney area.

He said there would be a 48-hour introductory period in which no fines would be issued but after that, he expected everyone to comply.

"There will be a 48-hour period where police and Access Canberra will be educating people; we won't be issuing on-the-spot fines or anything during that period," he said.

"But the past experience is that Canberrans have been overwhelmingly supportive of these measures so I don't think we're going to have a massive task on compliance.

"Generally it [non-compliance] happens when people are not aware of it coming into force so when you tell them to put a mask on, it's fine, so I think that generally will be the case."

Masks are required in indoor settings, outdoors and in situations where there are interactions with "people you don't normally live with, or work with".

"There are a number of indoor settings that a face mask will be required. However, the simple message is if you have any doubt about whether a mask is required or not, put one on," Mr Barr said on Sunday.

Chief Minister Andrew Barr. Picture: Keegan Carroll

Chief Minister Andrew Barr. Picture: Keegan Carroll

He said the masks were protection for people working in retail and hospitality and when in a "customer-facing role".

"Mask wearing remains just one of many measures that all Canberrans can use to reduce their risk of spreading or contracting the virus. Keeping your distance from people and good hand hygiene should be a part of our lives now," he said.

"We are also asking Canberrans to keep checking into venues [with the CBR app]. It's a really simple way to help with any contact tracing that may be required."

The rules do not apply to children under the age of 12.

Masks will also not be required at work if people are not directly interacting with members of the public.

Prisoners and staff at the Alexander Maconochie Centre are also not required to wear masks.


Canberrans are advised to use either single-use disposable masks or reusable cloth ones. Authorities say scarves, bandannas and face shields are not adequate substitutes.

Mr Barr acknowledged that this mask-wearing "proportionate" response was necessary in the light of the Sydney outbreak, which is expected to grow in number over the next few days.

He also flagged that there were more "iterations" of measures available to the government should the feared Delta variant be detected out in the broader ACT community.

"It depends on the nature of transmission here," he said.

"If someone who is in isolation [in the ACT] gets sick, gets tested, is positive and is in isolation then that's a lower level risk obviously then someone who has has travelled to multiple destinations through Canberra whilst they were infectious.

"They are the different ends of the spectrum and that's what NSW are encountering at the moment is they can't get to people and isolate them before they get infectious and before they've been travelling around to many different locations.

"It's a gradient of risk, really and we would respond accordingly."

However, should an outbreak occur he stressed he wouldn't do a piecemeal lockdown of a few Canberra suburbs, or an area like Tuggeraong, for example.

"If you're doing it [a lockdown], you're doing it quickly and you're doing it citywide," he said.

Darwin's lockdown has also prompted ACT authorities to issue a new order on people returning from that city to the territory.

"Non-ACT residents who have been in the Darwin, Palmerston or Litchfield areas of NT are not permitted to travel into the ACT on or after 4pm Sunday 27 June unless they have an approved exemption. Exemptions will only be granted in exceptional circumstances," ACT Health said.

"The ACT government has introduced a 'stay-at-home' requirement for anyone who has left Darwin, Palmerston or Litchfield in the Northern Territory on or after 4pm on Sunday, 27 June and enters the ACT. People will be required to stay at home until 1.30pm on Tuesday 29 June."

Meanwhile, the South Australian government has closed its border to the ACT, and several other states.

Masks are required in the follow places:

On a public transport service or at a public transport waiting area, including

  • Taxi services
  • Rideshare services
  • Bus and light rail services
  • Community transport services
  • Stations or platforms for rail/bus/lightrail
  • Bus stops and taxi ranks (including any area where people queue or gather)

In indoor retail premises or business premises that provide goods or services to members of the public who attend the premises (other than a hospitality venue, health service or kiosk), including the following:

  • Supermarkets
  • Shopping centres (including food courts)
  • Bank branches
  • Post offices
  • Hairdressing salons
  • Nail salons
  • Beauty salons (removal of the face covering is permitted if necessary for the proper provision of the goods and services)
  • Tanning salons
  • Waxing salons
  • Spas
  • Tattoo parlours
  • Massage parlours
  • Betting agencies
  • Community centres, youth centres or facilities
  • Auction houses
  • Real estate auctions / display homes / open homes
  • Galleries / museums / national institutions

In any indoor part of premises licensed under the Liquor Act that is used primarily for the purposes of gaming, including a gaming lounge.

In indoor entertainment facilities including

  • Cinemas or movie theatres
  • Events and event performances

In indoor premises being used for public worship or religious services, including places of worship.

Visiting or working within residential aged care facilities. (Note: residents of an aged care facility are exempt.)

Working at a hospitality venue in the ACT in a role which requires you to deal directly with members of the public. This includes:

  • casinos
  • food and drink premises
  • micro-breweries and small distilleries
  • pubs
  • registered clubs
  • small bars

When can I remove my face mask?

You can remove a fitted face covering when:

  • You are eating or drinking
  • You are communicating with another person who is deaf or hard of hearing
  • You are at work and the nature of your work makes the wearing of a fitted face covering a risk to your health and safety or another person's health and safety
  • Clear enunciation or visibility of the person's mouth is essential
  • In an emergency
  • Removal of the covering is necessary for the proper provision of the goods and services

Who does not need to wear a face mask?

Face mask requirements do not apply to:

  • Persons aged 12 years or under,
  • A person with a physical or mental health illness or condition, or disability that makes wearing a fitted face covering unsuitable including for example a skin condition, an intellectual disability, autism or trauma.

Further details on the face covering requirements are available from the ACT COVID-19 website.

This story Face masks now mandatory in Canberra first appeared on The Canberra Times.