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Woolies changes mask policy in response to rising case numbers

Woolworths is strongly encouraging customers and staff to wear face coverings in stores in New South Wales, the Australian Capital Territory and some parts of Queensland, where they are not currently required by state and territory governments.

The retail giant announced the change in a statement on Thursday afternoon, after the Victorian Government said all residents, not only those in Melbourne and Mitchell Shire, would need to start covering their faces outside of the home from 11:59pm on Sunday, August 2.

Some retailers, such as Harvey Norman and Brand Collective, which operates several fashion brands, including Superdry and Hush Puppies, had already made masks a condition of entry to stores throughout Victoria.

Apple has required customers and staff to cover their faces in all stores worldwide, including every store in Australia, since May.

Woolworths has not gone so far as to require face coverings in places where they are not currently required by law, but it will strongly encourage them across all company stores and sites in NSW and the ACT from Monday, August 3, and in hot spot areas in Queensland from today, Friday, July 31.

The company said this in response to rising numbers of coronavirus cases in NSW. As of July 31, the state has reported 18 new cases since the last reporting on July 29, and 203 active cases. The ACT has reported no new cases of coronavirus since July 29, and only one active case, and Victoria has reported 723 new cases.

“The safety and wellbeing of our customers, teams and communities is our top priority,” Woolworths Group CEO Brad Banducci said in the statement.

“Even though wearing a face covering is not mandatory in NSW, ACT or Queensland, as the largest private sector employer with stores in almost every community, we feel it’s important we lead the way in helping reduce community transmission of Covid-19. We’re asking our teams to lead by example, and this includes our Group Executive Team.”

Banducci added that masks and face coverings are a highly visible symbol of the persistence of Covid-19, and that the company could help stop the spread of the virus by encouraging and modelling their use.

The retailer said it will provide face coverings to all team members across the group and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future.

The guidance on face coverings applies to Woolworths Supermarkets, Woolworths Metro Food Stores, BIG W, Dan Murphy’s, BWS and ALH Hotels.

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