When to wear a mask? The $200 question

PoliceActing NSW Police Commissioner Malcolm Lanyon at the Press Conference.

From today $200 fines may apply for people overtly breaking the COVID-19 health orders relating to masks.

Police say they will be working with the community to help the community understand their compliance obligations.

These rules do apply on the Central Coast, that has been included in the Greater Sydney area (including Wollongong and Blue Mountains).

Face masks are now mandatory in the following indoor settings:

  • shopping (retail, supermarkets and shopping centres)
  • on public/shared transport and waiting areas for public/shared transport
  • indoor entertainment (including cinemas and theatres)
  • places of worship
  • hair and beauty premises
  • visiting an aged care facility.

Face masks will also be mandatory for all staff in hospitality venues, gaming areas in licensed premises (including casinos) and for patrons using gaming services.

Compliance & policing

Policing of the new rules will start from Monday 4 January 2021 with $200 on the spot fines for individuals for non-compliance.

Acting NSW Police Commissioner Malcolm Lanyon said at a press conference on Sunday Jan 3 “in the initial aspect of this health order we will be focusing on compliance. NSW Police will work very closely with the community to help them understand the nature of the health orders…”

Compliant masks

According to NSW Health authorities single-use and reusable cloth masks both help to prevent the spread of COVID-19, if used correctly.

Official advice is to buy single-use masks from reputable retail outlets including chemists, supermarkets and other shops.

Cloth masks are effective in reducing transmission of COVID-19 to other people when they are made and worn correctly.

A full guide to mask types can be found at the official NSW Health web site.


NSW Health lists a series of exemptions from the mask wearing rules, they include;

  • have a physical or mental health illness or condition, or disability, that makes wearing a mask unsuitable (for example, a skin condition, an intellectual disability, autism or trauma).
  • Children under 12 are exempt but are encouraged to wear masks where practicable.

You may remove your mask when you are;

  • eating or drinking
  • communicating with another person who is deaf or hard of hearing
  • at work and the nature of your work 
    • makes wearing a face mask a risk to your or another person’s health and safety
    • means clear enunciation or visibility of your mouth is essential
  • asked to remove your mask for identity purposes.

You may also remove your mask for the proper provision of goods or services, for example, if you are having a facial or beard trim. 

Why are we being asked to wear masks?

According the NSW Health, wearing a mask helps to reduce community transmission. One way COVID-19 is spread is when an infected person coughs, sneezes or speaks near another person.

The person infected with COVID-19 can be:

  • asymptomatic (doesn’t show symptoms at all)
  • pre symptomatic (not yet showing symptoms)
  • minimally symptomatic (showing mild symptoms).

If a person is infected with COVID-19, a face mask helps to stop them spreading COVID-19 when they cough, sneeze or speak.

The main value of wearing a mask is to protect other people. If used correctly, masks may prevent sick people from infecting others.

Even if you are wearing a mask, stay 1.5 metres away from others, if possible.

Information source: Press Conference NSW Police Jan 3, 2020. NSW Health website updates, Jan 3, 2020.