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Face mask rules

Wearing a face mask is mandatory in some settings. Learn about when you need to wear a face mask, when you can remove it and who is exempt.

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When to wear a face mask

Public transport and indoor public places

Wearing a face mask in situations where you cannot physically distance (for example on public transport or indoors at a public place) is strongly recommended.  

Airports and commercial domestic flights 

You must wear a face mask when 

  • indoors at a NSW airport, including the passenger waiting area and 
  • during a domestic commercial flight when it is   
    • landing or taking off from a NSW airport or   
    • flying in NSW airspace.   

Members of the flight crew and airport workers may remove their face mask when they are 

  • not interacting directly with passengers or 
  • when they are on an aircraft without any passengers onboard. 

Airport workers include 

  • engineers and technical staff 
  • cleaners 
  • baggage handlers 
  • people delivering or removing food and other items in connection with an aircraft 
  • airline employees 
  • law enforcement and border security officers. 

Who needs to wear a mask

You do not have to wear a face mask at home or when visiting someone else’s home. However, NSW Health strongly recommends wearing face masks if you are unable to physically distance from people you do not live with.

If you are hosting visitors, try to host your gathering outdoors. 

If hosting your gathering indoors, choose a large, well-ventilated room. Open doors and windows if possible.

Ask your guests to stay home if they feel unwell and to get tested.

If you are unwell, don’t have visitors and get tested immediately.

Remember to wash your hands regularly and provide hand sanitiser for your guests.

You can take off your face mask when you need to communicate with someone who is deaf or hard of hearing and seeing the mouth is essential.

It is important to keep 1.5 metres apart, where practicable. 

NSW Health provides tailored advice for the wearing of masks to aged care facilities and other health settings such as hospitals, specific to the location. 

Before you go, find out the current arrangements in place for any facility you plan to visit. 

Even if you wear traditional or religious garments, you still need to wear a fitted face mask in the designated settings. 

There are face masks available that can be worn with traditional and religious garments. If you are wearing a face covering, like a veil or scarf, it is recommended that you wear your face mask underneath. 

The face mask needs to fit securely around your face and be designed or made to be worn over the nose and mouth to provide the wearer with protection against infection. 

Types of masks

  • Wash or sanitise your hands before putting on or taking off your mask.
  • Ensure the mask covers your nose and mouth and fits snugly under your chin, over the bridge of your nose and against the sides of your face.
  • Refrain from touching the front of your mask while wearing or removing it.
  • Do not allow the mask to hang around your neck or under your nose.
  • Do not reuse single-use masks.
  • Wash and dry reusable masks after use and store in a clean, dry place.

For more information on how to wear a face mask and cloth masks, read our general advice on face masks.

Under the public health order, a "fitted face covering" means a mask or other covering that

  1. fits securely around the face, and
  2. is designed or made to be worn over the nose and mouth to provide the wearer with protection against infection.

Single-use and reusable cloth masks both help to prevent the spread of COVID-19, if used correctly. Scarfs and bandanas are not considered a “fitted face covering” under the public health order.

Learn more about using single-use and reusable cloth face masks.

Face shields are not a substitute for face masks however people who are unable to wear a mask may find it easier to wear a face shield. 

If this is the case for you, ensure the face shield covers the sides of your face and below the chin.

Clean and disinfect reusable face shields after each use. 

Wear disposable face shields only once. 

Exemptions

A person may remove their mask if they are:

  • eating or drinking
  • communicating with another person who is deaf or hard of hearing
  • at work and the nature of the work makes the wearing of a fitted face covering a risk to the person's, or another persons' health and safety, or where clear enunciation or visibility of your mouth is essential
  • asked to remove their mask for identity purposes
  • in an emergency situation
  • when the removal of a face mask is necessary for the provision of a good or service e.g. a facial or a beard trim.
Eating and drinking

You can take your face mask off when you are eating or drinking. 

To avoid the risk of contamination, NSW Health recommends you put on a new, clean mask when you have finished eating or drinking. If this is not possible, remember to wash or sanitise your hands. 

You should always use hand sanitiser or wash your hands before and after changing your face mask.

Remember, stay 1.5 metres apart from people you don’t live with.

Masks should not be worn by toddlers under 2 years of age and babies, as they are a choking and suffocation risk.

Children 12 years and under are exempt but are encouraged to wear masks where practicable.

The public health order includes a number of lawful reasons for not wearing a mask.

Children 12 years and under, are exempt but are encouraged to wear masks where practicable.

You are not required to wear a mask if you have a physical or mental health illness or condition, or disability, that makes wearing a mask unsuitable. For example, if you have a skin condition, an intellectual disability, autism or trauma, you are not required to wear a mask.  

It may not be suitable for some people with disability to wear a face mask. 

If you have a condition that prevents you from wearing a mask, you may wish to ask your registered health practitioner or disability care provider to issue a letter confirming this. However, this is not a requirement under the public health order.

You do not need documentary evidence stating that you are exempted from wearing a face mask under the public health order. 

Regulatory officers are focussed on compliance rather than enforcement. 

If you are stopped by a regulatory officer in a setting where masks are mandatory, they will ask you to confirm the lawful reason you are not wearing a face mask.

Officers will only issue penalty notices if you clearly refuse to wear a mask without a lawful reason.

If you have a condition that prevents you from wearing a mask, you may wish to ask your registered health practitioner or disability care provider to issue a letter confirming this. However, this is not a requirement under the public health order.

In other circumstances, if you are eating or drinking, or there is an emergency, you will not be expected to continue wearing a mask.

 

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