CANBERRA, July 23 (Xinhua) -- Australian Health Minister Greg Hunt reiterated the importance of face masks and social distancing measures as the nation's COVID-19 cases have surpassed 13,000 on Thursday.
From Thursday, about 5 million residents in metropolitan Melbourne and Mitchell Shire in the state of Victoria are required to wear masks when leaving home.
"Each one of us can help save a life or inadvertently, risk a life," Hunt told Sunrise, an Australian breakfast show program. "We're at that moment in our history where our individual actions are perhaps more important than ever."
"Keeping the distance, practicing the cough etiquette, wearing the mask, but above all else, keeping your space and being at home if you have the symptoms or if you have been tested and you're waiting for a result."
As of Thursday afternoon, there have been 13,306 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Australia and the number of new cases in the last 24 hours was 423, according to the latest figures from the Department of Health.
Of the new cases, 403 were in Victoria and the state authorities also confirmed five new deaths, including a man in his 50s, taking the national death toll to 133.
"So for Victoria, for Melbourne in particular, as we embark upon this new phase of the steps to protect ourselves and to protect our fellow Australians, the mandatory requirement of masks is confronting," Hunt also said in a press conference. Enditem