SYDNEY, Aug. 10 (Xinhua) -- Authorities of the Australian state of Victoria have announced that free masks will be handed out to the community to curb the COVID-19 transmission.
More than 3 million free N95 and KN95 masks would be given to the community through state-run testing sites and community health services across the state the next four to six weeks, said the announcement of the Victorian government on Tuesday.
Every person that presents for either a free rapid antigen or PCR test will receive one box of 10 N95 masks, along with instructions on how best to wear them to reduce transmission.
"Wearing a mask, staying up to date with your vaccinations and ensuring indoor areas are well ventilated are all steps Victorians and businesses can take to manage their own COVID-19 risk this winter and into the future," said Victorian Minister for Health Mary-Anne Thomas.
The policy was well received by the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP), which represents the nation's general practitioners.
RACGP President Karen Price said the announcement is an indication that the Victorian government is listening to medical experts.
"The expert advice is clear that masks limit community transmission of COVID-19 and other respiratory illnesses including influenza," she said on Tuesday.
"I know that wearing a mask isn't fun and can be slightly uncomfortable but remember that taking this small step can help drive down COVID-19 numbers across Victoria."
Price said the announcement was timely as the state deals with a surge of cases.
The state reported 5,898 cases and 52 deaths to the virus in the past 24 hours till 10:00 a.m. Wednesday, some of which came from historical data over the last week.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, 4,844 people have died in the state, the highest death toll of any Australian state or territory.
The RACGP has been urging states across the nation to remain vigilant and fight what it has termed "COVID-19 complacency", especially as many health mandates have been removed. ■