Thousands flock to St Kilda Beach, many maskless, as hot weather hits

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Thousands of people have crowded onto St Kilda Beach – many without face masks – as Melbourne marks its first official public holiday since the lifting of coronavirus restrictions and the hottest Cup Day since 1969.

Health Minister Martin Foley earlier pleaded with Melburnians to follow COVID-19 rules.

Thousands of people on St Kilda Beach.Credit:Jason South

“We’d encourage anyone who’s going to the beach, anyone who’s going out today, to take a couple of masks. Wet masks are not effective,” he said.

“If you’re on the beach, if you’re in the park, wear a mask. It’s the easiest thing we can all do to do our bit to keep ourselves safe, to keep our families safe and to keep Victoria open.”

Crowds have been building throughout the day at St Kilda as many embraced temperatures topping 30 degrees for the first time after months of COVID-19 restrictions, which temporarily outlawed sunbathing.

Crowds and police on St Kilda Beach.Credit:Jason South

Port Phillip Council called in private security to help local law officers monitor social distancing and other restrictions.

Hundreds of beach-goers defied alcohol bans and compulsory mask rules along the St Kilda foreshore as the Melbourne Cup was run and the festivities kicked on into the evening.

Young couple Danilo and Lily Paolella said they weren't too fazed by lax attitudes towards masks.

"It's a hot day and I'm really impressed with how everyone's staying inside of the circles in their bubbles distancing from each other, everyone's pretty calm as well," said Ms Paolella.

Mr Paolella predicted it would be a difficult task to try enforce mask wearing at outdoor places like beaches with the increasing hot weather.

"I think it's pretty hard [to enforce] masks with this heat so but I think as long as everyone respects the social distancing, I think it's fine".

Last month, Associate Professor Euan Tovey, a respiratory virus researcher at the University of Sydney, said there was little support for fears about transmission at the beach.

While Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton has said the state will eventually transition away from mandatory mask-wearing in all settings to just using them in high-risk settings, Premier Daniel Andrews has said he has no immediate plans to change or relax rules around mask-wearing ahead of the metro regional boundary lifting planned for November 8.

The number of active coronavirus cases in Victoria is the lowest it has been since the start of the pandemic, with the state recording no new cases or deaths on Tuesday for the fourth consecutive day.

Professor Sutton said on Sunday that low case numbers did not remove the need for masks.

"Clearly, if there is no transmission at all, masks are not a requirement," he said. "What we shouldn’t be complacent about is thinking that if we have a few days without cases that there is never a requirement for masks."

More to come.

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