MOH pushes out four million masks from government stockpile

THE Health Ministry has pushed out four million face masks over the weekend, with one million going to various constituencies for their lower-income residents and vulnerable groups and three million sent to the retailers.

There should be ample supply, so there is no need to panic buy, said Haze Inter-ministerial Committee chairman Ng Eng Hen yesterday.

Prices have also stabilised and even fallen, said the Defence Minister, who was handing out masks to residents at a seniors' activity centre in Toa Payoh yesterday.

Dr Ng also reassured those from poorer families that they will be given the masks.

"No need to rush, we will get it to you," he said.

The National Environment Agency (NEA) has said that healthy persons need to wear a mask only when prolonged and strenuous outdoor activity is unavoidable when the PSI goes beyond 200.

Yesterday, Foreign Affairs and Law Minister K. Shanmugam acknowledged that there was some public confusion over who should wear a mask.

It is the condition of your health, the degree to which you are exposed and the kind of effort you are exerting, he said.

As the N95 mask increases the effort needed for breathing, pregnant women in their second or third trimester are advised not to wear the masks for more than 15 to 20 minutes each time, the NEA said.

Yesterday, queues for N95 masks were spotted outside pharmacies, even as Singaporeans breathed easier in lighter haze conditions.

Over at NTUC Unity in Tampines 1 mall, a queue of about 30 people had formed by 1pm as customers jostled for stocks that had just been replenished in the morning.

"I had been trying to buy masks since last Thursday when the PSI crossed 300," said housewife Janet Soh, 49, whose name was on a waiting list at several pharmacies.

"We have only one at home for my child and I'm buying for my elderly folks."

About 15 people were queueing for N95 masks at Watsons in Tampines Mall at 1.30pm.

"They probably just got their stocks this morning and people do not know yet. If they did, queues would be much longer," said Mrs Susan Lim, who is a housewife.

The Guardian outlet near Toa Payoh HDB Hub still had stocks of N95 masks at 11am, although there was hardly a queue at the time.

FairPrice said it will be stocking a fresh supply of N95 masks at all of its 115 stores from today.

Stocks from suppliers and the Ministry of Health have arrived over the weekend.

kashc@sph.com.sg

Additional reporting by Jalelah Abu Baker