Since the outbreak of COVID-19 in Singapore early this year, the government has been changing their stance on mask-wearing.
At the beginning, government announced that people should not wear masks if they are well. Masks should only be worn by individuals who are sick.
Then on 3 Apr, the government made a slight “U-turn” saying that the authorities will “no longer discourage people from wearing masks”.
Yesterday (14 Apr), the government made a complete “U-turn” announcing that it is now mandatory for everyone to wear a mask when stepping out of the house but with some exceptions.
Individuals who are caught refusing to wear a mask will be fined $300 on their first offence, while those who flout the rule a second time will be fined $1,000. Egregious cases will be prosecuted in court, warned the National Development Minister Lawrence Wong.
“The minute you leave your room, or you leave your house, you have to wear a mask when you go out,” said Wong.
But children below the age of two will not need to wear a mask based on medical experts’ recommendations on child safety, he said. As for adults, only those who are engaging in strenuous exercises like running and jogging do not have to wear a mask, but they will have to put it on once they stop exercising.
Wong: We have not changed our strategy or approach
Despite the government changing its stance on the wearing of mask, Wong insisted that the government has not changed its strategy nor approach in the battle against COVID-19.
At the media conference yesterday, Wong explained, “It is one of constantly looking at the environment internationally and in Singapore, and then constantly adjusting and updating our posture and our measures, (anticipating) in a very proactive way, and then anticipating also what can happen in the future.”
He was responding to a question on whether the government should have taken a more pre-emptive stance of containment in the earlier days of the outbreak as opposed to taking a more “reactive stance” in its coronavirus response. Indeed, other places like Taiwan was already educating its residents to put on masks from day one.
At the moment, the number of COVID-19 cases in Singapore has crossed the 3,000 mark, hitting 3,252.
With a population of 5.639 million, Singapore currently is hitting a high of 577 confirmed COVID-19 infections per million population.
- Taiwan (23.78m): 393 cases, 17 cases per million
- Hong Kong (7.451m): 1013, 136 cases per million
Wong added that from the outset, the Government has said the key to managing the spread of the virus lies not just in the measures Singapore can adopt, but also in the pace at which it is able to adjust strategies and adapt to a situation that is very fluid and changing very rapidly.
“The understanding of the virus is also evolving from the beginning till now, (and) we have continued to learn new things… Scientific advice, not just in Singapore but internationally, has continuously been updated and evolved as well,” he said.
The virus spreads very quickly, and the situation can move in unpredictable ways any single day, he said.
“Anything can happen in the future. That’s something we’ve been saying all along and that remains the case… Anything can happen and the way it spreads, the new clusters that form – it can happen in very unpredictable ways because a single case, a single weak link can easily lead to new clusters forming.”