Victorian Government urge Melbourne residents to wear masks as COVID-19 cases hit new record – but Deputy Chief Medical Officer says COVID-19 not an “airborne virus”

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Premier Daniel Andrews has recommended that all Victorians living in Melbourne and the Mitchell Shire wear face masks when they leave home and physical distancing is not possible – even as the Federal Government said it was too early to consider evidence to the World Health Organization (WHO) that coronavirus can be airborne.

“Studies have recently shown that, even when factoring in imperfections and human error, wearing face masks can reduce transmission from coronavirus by around 60 per cent,” he said.

“Even a home-made mask will be of benefit to you, your suburb, to your family, to all of us.”

Supporting the move, the State Government has ordered over 2 million reusable masks and one million single-use masks.

The change of tune goes against the Federal Government’s advice, with Deputy Chief Medical Officer Dr Nick Coatsworth maintaining as late as Thursday that the “overwhelming” evidence suggests the virus is transmitted through droplets.

“Respiratory viruses, and COVID-19 is no exception, have their primary mode of spread through contact and droplet,” he told a briefing.

Dr Coatsworth added that the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee (AHPPC) would keep a “watching brief” on the letter but that its position would not change.

“That is not to say we will ignore emerging evidence, we certainly won’t,” he said.

Victoria now has 1,172 active cases across the state with over 5,000 close contacts of those and a new record of 288 new cases recorded yesterday. 47 people are in hospital with 12 in intensive care.