Victorian train and tram passengers refusing to wear a mask during their morning commute to work or school may be slapped with a $200 fine.
Since Melbourne emerged from its second COVID-19 lockdown in November, mask compliance on metropolitan trains and trams has fallen from 88 per cent to just over 50 per cent.
The slide in the number of people following health directions has prompted the Victorian government to initiate a mask blitz from Monday.
Public Transport Minister Ben Carroll said passengers who decline authorities’ offer of a mask will be fined as part of the two-week operation.
“We’ll be handing out masks at 70 metropolitan train stations, some 50 V/Line stations and tram stops,” he told reporters on Sunday.
“If you are approached by the protective service officer or police offering a mask, please take it. If you withdraw (from) taking the mask, you will be fined.”
Mr Carroll denied the timing of the blitz was linked to a recent scare in which a COVID-infected man from Wollert in Melbourne’s north shared packed trains with other passengers before and after a Friday night AFL match.
“(With) the return of football, more people are going to the footy and sometimes innocently are forgetting to put the mask back on,” he said.
“So it’s a really timely campaign with our partners in Victoria Police and protective service officers to get that message through.”
Face masks have been mandatory on public transport in Victoria since mid-2020, although the $200 on-the-spot fine has only been enforced in low numbers in recent times.
Mr Carroll said the mask mandate was here to stay for the “foreseeable future” despite vaccination rates rising and Victoria on Sunday enjoying its 86th day without a locally acquired case.
Meanwhile, the Department of Health on Sunday confirmed 10 of the 13 close contacts linked to an Epping North Woolworths visited by the Wollert man have returned negative tests.