Victoria’s big change to mask rules

Face masks will no longer be mandatory in all indoor spaces across Victoria, following the state’s eight straight day of no new local cases of coronavirus.

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews announced on Thursday masks will only be mandatory on domestic flights, at airports, in hospitals, on public transport, in commercial vehicles and at other retail locations.

He also said a number of Victorians in hotel quarantine in Queensland were being contacted and retested for the UK coronavirus strain after returning to Victoria since December 30.

The Premier said as a result of the COVID-19 fears plaguing Queensland, he said 18 people who had quarantined in Brisbane’s Hotel Grand Chancellor and then returned to Victoria since December 30 will be followed up.

“We are contacting them. We are testing them. Some of them will need to isolate. Some will simply need to get a negative test,” he told reporters on Thursday.

“There’s a specific window where we believe there is some chance that because of the infections that have already been recorded in hotel quarantine, between staff and residents, and it is that UK strain, without any other link … circumstances are very much based on each person’s travel movements and when they were in hotel quarantine.”

Mr Andrews said he would provide further updates on the health status of the 18 people once all of them had been contacted.

“There’s a lot of work, our contact tracing team worked throughout the night last night,” he said.

“We will continue to support and advise those people and can I say, as well, to check they are compliant with whatever requests we make of them.”

The Premier described the situation in Queensland as “serious”.

“We’re taking it very seriously,” he said. “To have 18 people who could be infected with the novel strain, that highly infectious strain out of the UK is of concern to us.

“That’s why we have settings for the Brisbane red zones as determined by national cabinet and as announced by the Prime Minister last Friday, but those 18 people are being followed up.”

Mr Andrews also announced Victoria’s return to work plans would resume from Monday.

Plans to open up 50 per cent of private office buildings on January 11, and 25 per cent of public servants, were put back a week after concerns about outbreaks that emerged in late December.

But Daniel Andrews said on Thursday the plans could go ahead with no evidence of local transmission across Victoria.

Mask rules will return to pre-Christmas levels from 11.59pm Sunday.

Victoria recorded no new cases of coronavirus on Thursday as more than 16,000 people were tested in the past 24 hours. There are 29 active cases of COVID-19 across the state.

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