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Face mask alternatives: How to cover up if you don’t have a mask


Woman wearing colourful bandana as face mask

If you're yet to buy a mask, these are the face covering options that still meet current coronavirus restrictions.

With new COVID-19 regulations set to kick in from Sunday 2 August at 11.59pm, ruling face coverings mandatory for the state of Victoria, demand for face masks is at an all-time high. And, while plenty of retailers have been working to help Victorians get their hands on a mask sooner, those still without will now risk copping a fine of $200.

If you do need to leave your house for any of the four accepted reasons and are yet to get your hands on a mask, there are alternate options available.

Currently, surgical grade masks are not required and the Victorian government ruling simply states that your face covering "needs to cover both your nose and mouth". According to Premier Daniel Andrews, this could mean using scarves or bandanas to cover up instead.

Scarves and bandanas

Taking to his Facebook page, the Premier said that, while "Victoria's Chief Health Officer recommends a fabric mask made of at least three layers or a disposable surgical mask as the most effective ways to cover your face... if you don't have either of those, the experts say a scarf or bandana is still better than nothing."

From 11:59pm on Wednesday, face coverings will be mandatory for everyone aged 12 and over in metropolitan Melbourne and...

Posted by Dan Andrews on Sunday, July 19, 2020

However, recent studies have found that bandanas allow through a high number of respiratory droplets, making them one of the least protective choices on the market.

Homemade masks

The Victorian government Health and Human Services states that face masks include "any paper or textile covering designed or made to be worn over the nose and mouth to protect the wearer". This means that you can make your own mask at home using materials that you have around the house.

Popular methods include using T-shirts or socks to create a face covering, or stocking up on mask-appropriate fabrics from craft stores such as .

Face shields

Another accepted option is to invest in a face shield, which is a visor-like headpiece made from plastic or other transparent material that fully covers the wearers face. To see a list of stores stocking them, you can see our guide on where to buy protective face shields.

Do I need to wear a mask?

If you live in the state of Victoria, you are currently required by law to cover your face when you leave home. However, there are a few exceptions to the ruling. These include:

  • Children under the age of 12
  • Those affected by relevant medical conditions, for example, those with breathing difficulties or certain disabilities
  • Persons who are deaf or hard of hearing
  • Persons driving alone in their vehicle
  • Professional sportspeople (when training or competing)

For a full list of lawful excuses to not wear a mask, see the Victorian government website.

When do I have to wear a mask or face covering?

Currently, those living in Victoria have four accepted reasons for leaving their homes (unless an exception applies). These include study or work, shopping for food and supplies, exercise, or giving or receiving medical care.

When leaving your house for any of the above reasons, you must wear a face covering.

You must also continue to abide by social distancing restrictions and personal hygiene requirements while wearing a face mask or covering.

Where can I buy a face mask?

If you are yet to invest in a face mask, you can see our guide on where to buy face masks online.

It's worth noting that most disposable masks can only be worn once, while many reusable masks also have a limited life span (e.g. Bonds masks can be worn for 20 washes). So, even if you do currently own a mask, having a backup is advisable.

Want more help with masks? Check out our overview of face masks, how to choose the best one, what doctors recommend when using them, the rules that apply in Australia and our regularly-updated guide on where to buy masks.

Main image: Culture Kings

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