Victorian train and tram passengers refusing to wear a mask on their commute to work or school may be given a $200 fine after there has been a slide in the number of people following health directions.

Since Melbourne emerged from its second COVID-19 lockdown in November, mask compliance on public transport in metropolitan Melbourne has dropped from 88 per cent to just over 50 per cent.

Public Transport Minister Ben Carroll told reporters on Sunday that passengers declining authorities’ offer of a mask would be fined as per a two-week operation.

“We’ll be handing out masks at 70 metropolitan train stations, some 50 V/Line stations and tram stops,” he said.

“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.”

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He said that the clampdown was not linked to a recent scare in which a COVID-infected man from Wollert in Melbourne’s north had shared packed trains with other passengers before and after a Friday night AFL match and said “the return of football, more people are going to the footy and sometimes innocently are forgetting to put the mask back on.”

The campaign is “timely”, he said, adding that the mask mandate was here to stay for the “foreseeable future” despite the rise of vaccination rates in Victoria.