For the first time, the Victorian premier, Daniel Andrews, urged residents of locked-down Melbourne to wear masks if they had to leave their homes and could not stay 1.5 metres away from others.

The Guardian reports that Victoria has recorded 288 new coronavirus cases, a “pretty ugly” number that is the highest daily total of any state during the entire pandemic.

Andrews acknowledged that the significant rise in the number of cases would cause concern across the community, and warned that numbers would probably increase over the next few days.

“It was always going to get worse before it got better,” Andrews said at a press conference on Friday.

FloatPac Silk mask female wearing black maskVictoria’s chief health officer, Brett Sutton, acknowledged it was a “pretty ugly” number but said he expected the number of cases to plateau soon.

Andrews said Victorians should be comforted by the fact that the state had carried out more than 37,000 Covid-19 tests in the past day, which was the “single biggest day of testing … by some considerable margin”.

Twenty-six of the new cases are linked to known outbreaks, and 262 are still under investigation.

Andrews also said his government would request that Melbourne residents wear a mask when proper social distancing was not possible, such as in a taxi or a busy supermarket. Wearing a mask would not be compulsory, Andrews said, but he was making the request “through an abundance of caution” and because it was relatively easy.

The government was preparing instructions on making home-made masks, Andrews said, and was also getting 2 million reusable masks made.

The government had previously not issued instructions on masks because the evidence was “ambivalent”.

Sutton said a recent meta-analysis in the journal Lancet had shown that masks could make a significant difference.FloatPac Silk mask male wearing white mask

Andrews urged Melbourne residents to adhere to lockdown rules, cautioning that the six-week lockdown could be extended if people broke the rules.

Victoria currently has 3,379 current coronavirus cases. Of those, 47 are in hospital. Twelve patients are in intensive care.

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