The Multi-Ministry Taskforce has made mask-wearing mandatory, with immediate effect, for everyone when they leave their homes as a further step to combat COVID-19 pandemic in Singapore.
Although, there will be some exemptions according to Minister for National Development Lawrence Wong who said in a press conference on Tuesday (14 April) that children below the age of two don’t need to wear mask as recommended by medical experts, for the safety of children.
People can also remove the mask when they are engaging in strenuous exercise such as running or jogging, but they need to put the mask on after exercising while still practicing safe distancing from others, said Mr Wong.
Anyone who fails to comply with the mask-wearing rules will be fined $300, while for those who commit offence repeatedly will be fined $1,000 or prosecuted in court for egregious cases.
Based on the latest medical and scientific advice, Mr Wong noted that they have already updated the mask advisory earlier, and therefore a further change of the masks guidance will be made during the circuit breaker period.
“That is why we went down to distribute reusable masks to everyone, and that exercise has completed over the weekend,” said Mr Wong.
Speaking on the reason for changing masks guidelines, Mr Wong explained that there were two key reasons. First, that is evidence or findings that people without symptoms or with mild symptoms could be spreading the virus. The second reason is the concern over some indicators that the virus was circulating with more undetected cases within the community.
He said, “What we are doing now is a next further step…just to make it [mask-wearing] mandatory and to take extra protections and precautions so that anyone going out in any setting wear a mask.”
“I think that will be an extra precaution worth taking for all of us,” he added.
Stressing that observing personal hygiene is still “a very critical factor” in disrupting the transmission chain beyond the mask-wearing, Minister for Health Gan Kim Yong also urged all Singaporeans to continue practicing good personal hygiene and frequent hand-washing.
Mr Gan said, “Because we want to do everything we can to reduce the risk of transmission, so as to keep our number of cases to as low as possible which is in line with our strategy of enhanced safe distancing approach over the next few weeks.”
Further, Mr Wong also cautioned, “Please do not use this mask-wearing requirement now to say ‘ok, I can go out’. In fact, you should not go out as much as possible. Just stay at home. Do all the right things. Practice good hand hygiene and stay at home as much as possible.”
“In the rare occasion that you do need to go out for purchase of your groceries or purchase of essentials, then it’s only at that time that you wear a mask,” Mr Wong added.
Netizens critical over “reactive” response against COVID-19, mocking government’s mask policy U-turn
Following the announcement that mask-wearing is now mandatory, many netizens penned their thought on the Facebook pages of CNA, The Straits Times and TODAY, criticising the government’s “reactive” response in implementing precautionary measures against the COVID-19 pandemic.
As it is “really hard to keep up with changes”, netizens commented that the government should be more “proactive” and “decisive” by implementing one time strict measures instead of implementing new measures every single days to contain the spread of COVID-19 in the country.
Many netizens also mocked the government over their U-turn mask-wearing where it previously said that people only need to wear a face mask if feeling unwell. Some even described the government decision as “roti-prata” and hoped that government would not “U-turn again” when there is shortage of masks.
Meanwhile, some netizens also requested that the government explain and specify clearly on the enforcement of face mask usage, such as the areas that people need to wear masks.
While some support the measures taken by government, however, there are netizens who pointed out that government should make wearing a mask compulsory for everyone rather than giving exemptions to some certain groups. It is because the exemption rules might cause enforcement officers difficulties when perform their duty and silent carriers may still transmit the virus to others.
As it is compulsory to wear a face mask now, one netizen opined that the government should distribute more surgical masks given that reusable mask are unhygienic after long hours of usage.