Forum: Coronavirus: Confusion over different approaches taken

People wear masks as they walk near Ruins of St. Paul’s in Macau on Feb 5, 2020.
People wear masks as they walk near Ruins of St. Paul’s in Macau on Feb 5, 2020.PHOTO: REUTERS

The Ministry of Health has been sending out notifications and taking out advertisements to inform the public to avoid wearing a mask if they are well.

In contrast, Macau announced earlier this week that anyone who wishes to take public transportation, including buses and taxis, must don face masks.

The Macau government said it had secured 20 million masks for its 645,000 population - which works out to an average of 31 masks per person. It has also ordered that all of its casinos be shut down for at least two weeks, after a casino staff member was found to be infected by the virus.

This, in spite of the fact that the gambling industry contributes more than 80 per cent of Macau's annual tax revenue.

To date, Macau has had 10 confirmed cases compared with 28 in Singapore.

Singapore and Macau have two very different approaches in handling the coronavirus outbreak.

Macau seems to be taking a far more precautionary one, whereas Singapore appears to not want to cause public panic.

Whatever the case, a number of people I know are confused by these conflicting messages.

To most people, it seems counterintuitive not to wear a mask under such circumstances, regardless of whether one is sick or healthy, more so now that the first cases of local transmission have been reported.

Since the coronavirus is transmitted through droplets from an infected individual, and it has been reported that some individuals may not show symptoms of infection for a few days, would it not be a good idea to minimise transmission by encouraging the public to wear masks in public enclosed areas, crowded areas and public transportation systems?

David Kong

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 06, 2020, with the headline 'Coronavirus: Confusion over different approaches taken'. Print Edition | Subscribe