Face masks

Face masks are an additional physical barrier and help to stop the spread of COVID-19.

At this time in South Australia it is not mandatory for the general community, but it is recommended to wear a mask when out in public if you are unable to physically distance.

Children under 12 years of age do not need to wear a mask, as they may not be able to handle it safely.

Masks or face coverings should NOT be worn by children under the age of 2 or anyone who has trouble breathing, is unconscious, incapacitated, or otherwise unable to remove the mask without assistance.

Please be respectful to others as reasons for not wearing a mask are not always obvious.

The best ways to protect yourself and others against COVID-19 continue to be:

  • Getting tested if you have any symptoms, no matter how mild.
  • Practicing physical distancing (keep 1.5 metres between yourself and others wherever and whenever possible).
  • Washing (or sanitising) your hands regularly.
  • Wiping down frequently touched surfaces.
  • Covering coughs and sneezes in a tissue or elbow.
  • Staying home and avoiding others when sick.

Mandatory mask use

The Emergency Management (Public Activities No 15) (COVID-19) Direction 2020 includes details around mandatory mask use in health care settings. 

From 1 December 2020, all people in health care settings must wear a mask (covering mouth and nose) at all times when in the physical presence of other people on the premises. This includes:

  • care providers
  • patients
  • clients
  • administrative and other staff
  • administrative and other staff
  • employees
  • visitors
  • students
  • contractors; and
  • any other person present on site.

Masks are also required for:

  • Employees at nail salons, tattoo parlours, hairdressers and similar businesses.
  • People who are in self-quarantine or self-isolation who need to leave their home to seek urgent medical care, seek urgent medical supplies or get tested for COVID-19 must wear a mask when in public.

More information, visit the COVID-19.SA.GOV.AU Emergency Declarations or read through the FAQs for the mandatory mask use in health care settings (PDF 140KB).

Wearing a face mask

  • Consider having more than one mask on hand so that you can easily replace a dirty mask with a clean one.
  • Cloth masks should be made of three layers of a mix of breathable fabrics, to ensure adequate protection.
  • Cloth masks are inexpensive and easy to make.
  • You can buy single-use surgical and cloth masks from a number of retail outlets.
  • A single-use surgical mask should be changed at least every four hours, or if it is compromised (for example, damp or damaged). Consider timing meal or bathroom breaks with mask changes.
  • Make sure that your mask does not have holes or a valve. This can result in breathing out the virus if you have COVID-19.
  • Make sure your mask is not wet, or it can no longer do its job.
  • At this time, ‘fitted’ face coverings, such as bandanas, scarves, or neck gaiters may be used if you are unable to find a cloth mask, or single-use surgical face mask.

How to fit your mask correctly

  • If you wear a mask, you need to wear it properly to make sure its effective.
  • A mask should fit securely around your face, covering both your nose and mouth areas at all times.
  • Make sure the mask fits snugly under your chin, over the bridge of your nose and against the sides of your face.
  • It should be snug and secured with ties at the back of your head, or by ear loops.

How to put on your mask safely

  • Before putting the mask on, wash your hands for at least 20 seconds with soap and water, or use hand sanitiser that is made up of over 60 per cent alcohol.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, mouth at all times.

During use

  • Do not touch the front of your mask while wearing it.
  • If you do touch the mask, wash or sanitise your hands immediately.
  • Do not allow the mask to hang around your neck, this includes when eating and drinking.
  • Do not allow the mask to sit under your nose.

After use

  • Use the ties or ear loops to remove the mask.
  • Do not touch the front of your mask while removing it.
  • Store cloth face masks in a plastic bag until you have an opportunity to wash them.
  • Wash your cloth mask whenever it gets dirty or at least daily. If your mask is wet or dirty from sweat, saliva, make-up, or other liquids or substances, keep it in a sealed plastic bag until you can wash it.
  • If you are taking off your mask to eat or drink outside of your home, you can place it somewhere safe to keep it clean, such as your pocket, purse, or paper bag.
  • Single-use masks should not be re-used, and should be thrown away after each use.
  • Wash your hands for at least 20 seconds with soap and water, or use hand sanitiser that is made up of over 60 per cent alcohol.
  • Do not dispose of masks into a recycling bin. Dispose in a bag or lined bin.

Further information and resources

How to wear a mask: Australia's Chief Nurse and Midwifery Officer

Read transcript.