askST: Who will be first to put their masks back on if Covid-19 rules return?

Seniors and those with compromised immune systems will likely be the first to have to start wearing masks again. PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - As Singapore experiences the latest wave of Covid-19 infections primarily driven by the XBB strain, giving rise to the possibility of bringing back mask mandates, The Straits Times looks at what’s at stake for Singaporeans.

Q: Who will be the first groups that need to don masks?

A: Seniors and those with compromised immune systems will likely be the first to have to start wearing masks again should mask mandates return, something which Health Minister Ong Ye Kung did not rule out in a Covid-19 multi-ministry task force press conference on Oct 15. People in crowded indoor settings might also need to mask up, as would those who are visiting or interacting with vulnerable people.

With examinations around the corner for many students, those sitting their exams should also take precautions to keep themselves well during this period.

Currently, masks are required only on public transport and in healthcare settings, such as hospitals and clinics.

Q: When could the mask mandates return?

A: Right now, there has been no change in mask rules. But while the number of severe cases of the XBB Omicron strain has been low, with a majority of patients reporting mild symptoms, infection numbers have been rising. The authorities are closely watching the local situation and the reinstatement of mask mandates cannot be ruled out should the situation get worse.

Q: What are other countries doing?

A: Many countries have relaxed or removed their mask mandates. For instance, in Malaysia, there has been no need for masks in outdoor settings since May 1, 2022. Mask-wearing in public indoor environments has also been optional since Sept 7. Masks remain compulsory for those using public transport or visiting healthcare facilities such as hospitals.

In South Korea, mask-wearing outdoors has not been needed since Sept 26. However, masks remain required indoors and on public transport.

Q: What about me? Should I wear a mask?

A: People who are uncomfortable with the Covid-19 risk in crowded places ought to wear a mask, and this is especially so for the elderly and people who are immunocompromised, and anyone who interacts with these people regularly. People should exercise personal responsibility as well, and wear a mask if they are feeling unwell.

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