Minister for Trade and Industry Chan Chun Sing highlighted in his Facebook post on Thursday (7 May) that there has been much interest in Singapore’s mask strategies, especially if the country is looking to build up capabilities for domestic mask manufacturing to address the needs of the people.
Yesterday afternoon, he provided update about the plans, which have been in the works since the previous few months, according to local media.
“When the outbreak first started in China, we knew that there would be a severe worldwide shortfall in surgical masks and realised that we had to urgently conserve surgical and N95 masks for our healthcare workers,” Mr Chan wrote.
Due to the fact that some of the plans eventually could not materialise, the country swiftly decided to build its own local production capabilities, even though there are earlier established agreements to manufacture surgical masks with overseas partners, he added.
In mid-February, the nation’s first made-in Singapore was manufactured, a day after the machines returned. Without the determination and hard work of ST Engineering, who played an important role in the process, this could not have been achieved, Mr Chan noted.
To the rumours and speculation circulating about the country’s mask production capabilities, he asserted that the country was “unable to speak about them publicly earlier” because there were concerns that its raw materials and future production lines would be cut off amid the high demand for surgical masks during that period.
“Together with our partners, we continued with our local N95 masks production,” Mr Chan assured. Singapore fulfilled its responsibilities and kept its promise to the world supply chains. This kind of trust needs to be encouraged so that investments and production capacities from others will continue to come, he added.
Even as the country builds up its mask production capacities, if the pandemic persists for the long-term, it may not be sustainable to just relay on masks, Mr Chan cautioned.
As medical evidence proves that wearing mask does minimise viral transmission, he noted that this spurred the nation’s local manufacturers and economic agencies to start manufacturing and stockpiling reusable cloth masks. These masks were distributed to every resident in April.
For the past few weeks, the country has also been collaborating with local producers and A*STAR to continue improving the materials employed for making the reusable cloth masks, Mr Chan said. These masks are more comfortable to wear for longer period of time and it also has better protective qualities.
“We are building up our supply of these improved reusable masks and once we have sufficient stock, we will work with People’s Association and Temasek Foundation to do a round of distribution to all residents in Singapore towards the end of the circuit breaker period,” he stated.
The country has come a very long way since the previous few months, Mr Chan said. Effort is still ongoing even though it has progressed somewhat in the securing of masks that are need by the people. Although in certain countries around the world, their situation have stabilised, the possibility of recurring waves of infection yet remains, and so the demand for supplies like surgical masks may increase once more, he explained.
The Government will remain committed to accumulate a “healthy stockpile” of surgical masks for the people, especially for those in the frontline who need them the most. At the same time, he stated that the country will surmount the challenges to build a sustainable flow of supplies, as well as pushing the technological boundaries to realise this.
Mr Chan highlighted that the past few months have been a “Whole-of-Nation effort”.
“I am extremely thankful to all the companies and individuals who have gone above and beyond the call of duty to secure essential supplies for Singapore. I applaud the tenacity and resilience of our people who have been an integral part of this process,” he expressed.