Covid-19

Patients who mingle with visitors outside hospital while unmasked pose risk to others

During the Covid-19 pandemic, it is not surprising that hospitals are allowing fewer visitors in their wards.

Ever since my elderly mother was admitted to Singapore General Hospital earlier this year, the number of registered visitors allowed has been reduced from five to one.

While it is heartbreaking that my mother is not able to see her beloved children and grandchildren in what could be her final days, my family understands and respects the need to keep the patients safe and to prevent any potential clusters from forming.

However, despite the tightened restrictions, I have seen patients standing outside the hospital meeting their family and friends in groups of four or five without their mask on.

As visitors are required to take their temperature and fill in their travel declaration only on entering the hospital building, there is a chance that the people meeting the patients outside the building have not gone through the necessary checks.

While I am not suggesting that hospitals lock their patients in the wards, I wonder if the added precautions would be useless if patients are allowed to mingle unmasked with the public outside and then return to the wards later.

It hardly seems fair that the other patients in the wards, many of whom are already sick and vulnerable, are unnecessarily put at risk by the irresponsible actions of these patients.

Perhaps another cause for concern are the many visitors eating in the wards with their masks off, despite the hospital placing many signs stating that "visitors are not allowed to eat or drink within the wards and should keep their masks on at all times while in the wards".

These prohibitions are put in place to protect vulnerable patients in these unprecedented times.

The lax enforcement of these prohibitions is not something that we can afford.

My hope is that by addressing these lapses, our loved ones are safer.

Michelle Tan

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 11, 2021, with the headline 'Patients who mingle with visitors outside hospital while unmasked pose risk to others'. Subscribe