Retailers scramble to restock as government orders millions of masks before deadline

Three million disposable masks have already been ordered.

Three million disposable masks have already been ordered. Photo: AAP

Retailers are scrambling to restock shelves, with masks with many running, out as the Victorian government prepares to make wearing masks mandatory in lockdown zones across Melbourne.

People who live in metropolitan Melbourne and in the Mitchell Shire must put on a face mask or face covering if leaving their homes for the four allowed reasons from 11.59pm on Wednesday.

“If you are out of your home for one of the four reasons, then you need to be wearing a mask and I stress – or a face covering – it need not be a hospital grade mask, it need not be one of the handmade masks,” Premier Daniel Andrews said.

“Any face covering is better than no face-covering.”

New South Wales Premier Gladys Berejiklian said also asked people to limit non-essential travel, avoid crowds and “if you cannot guarantee people around you will respect that social distancing, you must wear a mask”.

On Monday afternoon, Australia’s deputy chief health officer Nick Coatsworth advised that if people needed to catch public transport in NSW, they should wear a mask.

“The advice is not to catch public transport and wear a mask. The advice is to completely reconsider how you get to work if that’s possible. And avoid public transport,” he said.

Mask production

As the demand for masks surges, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said mask production had been ramped up.

“It might require a bit of patience at the outset, when there’s a bit of a rush on,” he said.

“And for the state government who has decided to make that mandatory, I have no doubt that they would have considered the supply issues when they made that decision.”

More than masks, the PM said, it was vital for everyone to keep up social distancing and hygeine habits.

In Victoria, Chemist Warehouse chief operating officer Mario Tascone told Melbourne radio station 3AW they have already sold 1.5 million masks since the announcement.

“It was a pretty crazy day, yesterday, following Dan’s announcement,” Mr Tascone told Neil Mitchell.

He said their stores went through some 30,000 boxes of 50 masks – 1.5 million. “The good news is that there is a lot of stock in the marketplace,” he said.

Bunnings merchandise director Phil Bishop told AAP their stores were “well-stocked”.

But the hardware company has placed a limit of a pack of 50 face masks per customer to help ensure all customers have access to stock.

Elsewhere, Melburnians were queuing up at Spotlight and Lincraft stores to buy fabric and elastic to make their own reusable masks before the new rules were introduced.

Others were flooding social media platforms with ideas on how to make your own masks, including many suggesting digging out old socks, cutting them in half and turning into masks.

There are 2913 active cases across the state on Monday, with 147 people in hospital, 31 of those in intensive care.

Residents in impacted areas have been told to reach for the face covering along with their phone and keys, or face a $200 fine.

Mr Andrews said up to three million face masks are on order with a batch of 300,000 due to arrive this week.

Google data showed search interest for “face mask” grew to a new high this week, peaking sharply around midday on Sunday.

The interest value in Google shifted from zero early on Sunday morning to 100 by 2pm.

Volumes over the past seven days have been 63 per cent above the previous weekly peak in mid-March.

There are some reasons for not wearing a masks such as medical reasons, children aged under 12, a professional reason or if not practical – like running – but individuals need to carry a mask with them.

Teachers won’t need to wear a face covering while teaching but students there for VCE, VCAL or for onsite supervision will.

Opposition leader Michael O’Brien said the premier needed to make sure masks were available “quickly” and “affordable” to Victorians.

The State of Emergency has been extended until 11.59pm on August 16.

Victorian schools ‘priority’

Schools in metropolitan Melbourne and Mitchell Shire will be one of the first priority areas to receive reusable face masks in coming weeks as remote learning returned on Monday morning for preps to year 10 students.

“Returning to flexible and remote learning will limit the movement of more than 700,000 students, their parents and carers, and help slow the spread of coronavirus,” Mr Andrews said.

“We have over a million Victorian-made masks on the way and we will take steps to ensure every student has access to a face covering if they’re learning onsite.”

Up to 1.4 million reusable masks are on order throughout the month and into August from Nobody Denim, StylePrint, NMBQ, The Ark and The Mask Project.

The rule is that all students aged 12 and over and staff who are attending school in metropolitan Melbourne and Mitchell Shire will be required to wear a face covering or mask when at school from Thursday, but won’t be mandatory for teachers while they are in the classroom.

Specialist schools and primary schools are exempt from this rule.

A further 23 million single use masks have also been ordered and will be distributed while the reusable masks are made.

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