Professor Sutton said the rules would change over time, but ditching masks on hot days was not yet an option.
“When you’re not wearing a mask, the ability to spread the virus to anyone around you is much, much greater,” he said.
“But, right now, the stakes are so high for regional Victoria that if there’s a [COVID-19 case] … we need to protect everyone there from the possibility of a cluster that becomes an outbreak that becomes explosive numbers. That is a really high-stakes game.”
Professor Sutton said the high risk was posed by essential workers travelling from Melbourne to regional Victorian.
“The risk of reintroduction is still there. At the moment, it is so important to have zero cases in regional Victoria.
“I am sure regional Victorians are as fed up with masks as some of us are. But they are motivated to be COVID-free.”
There are 261 active cases of COVID-19 in Victoria, with just three in country areas. Eleven are linked to a Frankston family cluster and an outbreak at Chadstone Shopping Centre, while 40 are among healthcare workers and 111 are connected to nursing homes.
All of the 14 mystery cases – those without a known source of infection – that emerged in the fortnight to September 29 are in the metropolitan Melbourne area.
There are 38 Victorians in hospital fighting the virus, including four in intensive care, three of whom are on a ventilator.
On Thursday, 12,550 coronavirus tests were carried out across the state. Premier Daniel Andrews pleaded with the public to get tested over the weekend, regardless of the balmy spring weather.
“If you have got symptoms this weekend, please don’t wait until Monday to get tested. Please get tested as soon as the symptoms are obvious to you,” he said.
Ashleigh McMillan is a breaking news reporter at The Age. Got a story? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Marissa Calligeros is a journalist at The Age