Covid-19: All Singapore households to receive reusable masks from April 5 as Govt rethinks advice on mask use, says PM Lee

A woman with a face mask walks past a screen showing a telecast of Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong addressing the outbreak of coronavirus disease (Covid-19), at the central business district in Singapore, April 3, 2020. — Reuters pic
A woman with a face mask walks past a screen showing a telecast of Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong addressing the outbreak of coronavirus disease (Covid-19), at the central business district in Singapore, April 3, 2020. — Reuters pic

SINGAPORE — From this Sunday (April 5), all households across Singapore will receive reusable masks, as the authorities are rethinking their advice on face masks, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said on Friday.

The Government will no longer discourage people from wearing masks, even if they are not exhibiting symptoms of sickness, as evidence has shown that an infected person can show no symptoms, and yet still pass on the virus to others, he said.

In an address to the Republic that was broadcast live, Mr Lee noted that up to now, the Government has advised the general public that they need to wear a mask only if they are not feeling well, and this is to protect others from their germs.

This was based on scientific advice and guidelines from the World Health Organization (WHO), he added. 

“We also did not have community spread in Singapore then, so it was very unlikely for you to run into anyone with Covid-19 on the street, much less be infected by them,” he said.

“Nevertheless, the Government gave each household four surgical masks, to use in case you got sick, and to give people peace of mind.”

 Now, the situation is changing, Mr Lee noted.

“We now think there are some cases out there in the community going undetected, though probably still not that many. We also now have evidence that an infected person can show no symptoms, and yet still pass on the virus to others.”

This is why the WHO is reviewing the issue of face masks, he said.

“Therefore we will no longer discourage people from wearing masks. Wearing a mask may help to protect others, in case you have the virus but don’t know it. This is so that you keep your droplets to yourself,” he added.

“It can also protect yourself a little better, especially if you are elderly, or vulnerable because of pre-existing conditions.”

The Government still wants to conserve surgical masks for the people who really need them — healthcare workers in clinics and hospitals, Mr Lee said.

“For everyone else, in a community setting, alternatives like reusable masks will give some added protection. So from this Sunday, the Government will distribute reusable masks to all households.”

Meanwhile, he noted, many community groups have been making and distributing reusable masks for the elderly and vulnerable. 

“I applaud these efforts. They show our community spirit and care. But remember, mask or no mask, you still need to wash your hands, and keep a safe distance away from other people.” — TODAY

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