Victoria’s coronavirus crisis hits tipping point, union calls for masks to be mandatory on public transport

Victoria’s coronavirus crisis has hit a tipping point and the use of masks on public transport should be mandatory, says the union representing the state’s public transport workers.

Today is the second day of a lockdown of 10 postcodes, including over 30 suburbs, which have high numbers of coronavirus cases.

The state recorded its single biggest increase in community transmission of COVID-19 on Thursday after recording 77 new cases, the fourth-highest increase to date.

The Rail, Tram and Bus Union (RTBU) has sought an urgent meeting with the Department of Transport to discuss the implementation of a mandatory mask policy.

“If we want to be on top of the virus, we must implement preventative measures — especially in areas of high congestion,” RTBU secretary Luba Grigorovitch said.

“We’re hoping clear guidance will be issued to travellers and that masks will be made available to commuters as a matter of urgency.”

Ms Grigorovitch said the union had been advocating for the use of masks since day one.

An empty train platform with two stationary trains and no people.
Melbourne’s public transport system is only running at about 25 per cent of usual patronage.(ABC News: Ron Ekkel)

She said many union members had reported issues with social distancing, sick passengers, a lack of PPE availability and concerns about cleaning standards on public transport.

“The least that could be done is [to] require that travellers prevent the spread of droplets,” she said.

“We have pushed for anything that will make members safer and reduce the risk for the travelling public.”

The World Health Organization is considering whether to suggest new guidance for the public on wearing masks to limit the spread of coronavirus.

Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton has said his officials are looking at developing new guidelines on their use, especially in places where social distancing is not an option.

“I think it might be worthwhile as an additional intervention, certainly  people shouldn’t feel shy about wearing them,” he said.

The Government said the current advice from the Chief Health Officer was that people do not need to wear face masks if they are well.

Police officer tests positive for COVID-19

The Werribee Police Station, west of Melbourne, has reopened after being closed temporarily when an officer on leave tested positive.

The officer returned a positive test on July 1 but had not been at work since June 21.

Six officers were identified as close contacts and have gone into self-isolation.

The station was cleaned and has now reopened.

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