On 1 February, all 1.3 million households in Singapore will be given four surgical masks, says the Government.
Though reiterating that only people who are unwell should be wearing masks, the government announced today (30 Jan) that it will be handing out 5.2 million free masks progressively from Saturday via 89 community centres (CC) and 654 residents’ committee (RC) centres.
The masks can only be collected once per household and those collecting will have to bring along their identity card (NRIC).
People living in Housing Development Board (HDB) flats can collect their masks from RCs between 1 to 5 February. After that, those living in private housing estates and those who have not collected their masks can do so at CCs.
The government will also be delivering the masks to those who are vulnerable and unable to collect them.
While these masks are due to be given out, the government says it has also already released 5 million masks to retailers.
On top of that, the government is also sourcing for new mask suppliers amid a global shortage, while stressing that there are enough masks in the country for those who need it. The authorities are also ramping up orders of new supplies from traditional suppliers.
Medical institutions will be prioritised for resupply.
Reports note that the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) has been working around the clock to pack the masks. The distribution of them will be handled by the People’s Association (PA).
Back in 2013 during the haze crisis, a similar exercised was carried out by the SAF. At the time, more than a million masks were distributed via grassroots channels.
Now, we don’t know how the government decided on the “4 masks per household” figure.
Straits Times (ST), in its report, quoted health experts in Singapore saying that there is no community spread of the Wuhan virus in Singapore, so there is no need for healthy people to wear the masks.
In that vein, it is said that the four masks per household should be enough since it is not likely that everyone in the country is sick.
If a family has more than one person who is unwell and they are concerned, they are encouraged to call for assistance. Authorities say a dedicated ambulance will be activated to help.
ST also noted that masks are not effective if soiled or stained and that it is not recommended to use them for more than 24 hours. So on that note, it means that a household of four can only use those free masks for one day.
Those selling masks at inflated prices will be taken to task
With the demand for masks rising, there have been certain unscrupulous individuals who have taken to selling them online for inflated prices. The authorities stated that those who are guilty of this will be taken to task.
The Ministry of Trade and Industry indicated it will be questioning retailers, online and offline, who have been selling masks at increased prices to provide information on the cost of the mask and the reason for the high pricing.
Those found to be profiteering will have action taken against them under the Price Control Act.