As of Sunday, 2 August, it will be mandatory for all Victorians to wear a face mask or face covering when leaving home or face a $200 fine for not doing so.

Victorian premier Daniel Andrews made the announcement after he revealed a record 723 new COVID-19 cases – the highest national total since the pandemic began. He also announced that there had been 13 deaths since yesterday.

Mr Andrews told a press conference on Thursday morning that: “It’s inconvenient, it’s challenging, but it’s essentially stage four for Melbourne, and it’s something we can do in regional Victoria without causing significant economic cost, but getting a really significant public health benefit.”

READ MORE: Deadliest day of COVID-19 pandemic: 723 cases announced in Victoria, 13 deaths

The premier also announced that as of midnight tonight (Thursday), the residents of Greater Geelong, Surf Coast, Moorabool, Golden Plains, Colac-Otway and the Borough of Queenscliffe could no longer host guests in their homes, or social gatherings such as weddings or funerals. He stopped short of including restaurants and public houses.

“I know it may seem counter intuitive that you can go to the pub but you can’t go to your mate’s place. But ultimately … the data drives that decision. That’s where the transmission is. It’s not in cafes and restaurants, but it is, in small numbers, in people’s homes. One family to another,” said Mr Andrews.

“People are visiting friends and family – and taking the virus home with them. It makes sense. These are the kind of places we let our guard down. We relax, we get comfortable and we forget all the rules about keeping safe.”

READ MORE: 18 coronavirus-related deaths from within the Greek Australian community of Melbourne.

He repeated the call for people to not go to work if they feel symptoms and to be tested as quickly as possible. He said that the Victorian Government was providing financial assistance so that workers without sick leave or special pandemic leave and no income don’t feel compelled to turn up to work even if they’re unwell.

There is a $1,500 payment available and a $300 support payment from the time of testing.

READ MORE: Facial masks – the dos and don’ts in the fight against COVID-19