Coronavirus: Who needs to wear a mask and what's the proper way to wear it?

Face masks are designed to prevent the passing of a virus from the wearer to other people, not the other way around. ST PHOTO: TIMOTHY DAVID, NG SOR LUAN
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SINGAPORE - Masks are not something that you can wear and automatically get protection against the Wuhan virus.

This was a reminder by Minister for National Development Lawrence Wong at a news conference on Thursday (Jan 30), in the wake of signs of panic buying of surgical masks in Singapore.

More than five million masks released to retailers were "snapped up in hours" each time a batch of these were put up for sale over the past nine days, said Mr Wong, who is co-chair of the multi-ministry task force tackling the spread of the Wuhan virus here.

"Medical experts have highlighted that sometimes wearing a mask or wearing it wrongly can give you a false sense of security. You wear it wrongly, it may not be effective," he said.

"Worse, if you wear it and you still use your hands to touch your face constantly, it doesn't help at all because there is more likelihood that the virus can spread through contact and through your hands."

So, who should wear a mask and what is the proper way to wear it, should you need one?


• Masks are meant to be worn only by people who are unwell. They are designed to prevent the passing of a virus from the wearer to other people, not the other way around.

• They are not meant for healthy people doing their day-to-day chores.

• Masks do not confer automatic protection against the virus.

• Wearing a mask wrongly can render it ineffective or give users a false sense of security.

• Viruses are often passed through contact, such as by touching a contaminated lift button or door handle, and then touching your face.


• Wash your hands with soap and water before touching the mask.

• Remove the mask from the box and make sure there are no obvious tears or holes.

• The metal band should be at the top.

• Place the loops behind your ears, or tie one set of bands behind your head and the other pair behind your neck.

• Pull the bottom of the mask under your chin towards your neck.

• With your fingers, press the metal band so that it conforms to the bridge of your nose.

• Make sure there are no gaps between the mask and your face.

• Discard masks if wet or soiled. Do not wear one for more than 24 hours.

• Wash your hands after removing the mask.

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