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Netizens mock mandatory mask rule for cinemas

Cinemas are to reopen from tomorrow with Covid-19 measures like the compulsory wearing of masks inside halls, except when eating and drinking. But that rule is not effective as you can snack throughout the film, say some.

Akan datang for some readers: Scary movies, where the fear comes from audience members spreading the possibly airborne coronavirus in cinemas by screaming, laughing or, as Marcus Shawn said, "the most horror part is you hear people coughing".

Wait, what about the mandatory wearing of masks as cinemas reopen from July 13? Well, a stream of Straits Times Facebook users laughed over that rule because there is a loophole the size of a hungry moviegoer's mouth: You can take masks off when eating or drinking… for hours.

In practice, some moviegoers can nurse a drink or popcorn from the opening credits to closing ones.


Among the films to usher in the cinemas' reopening is the follow-up to zombie thriller Train To Busan. Set in a post-apocalyptic world, Train To Busan: Peninsula will open on July 15 here.

Fans are excited and making plans, like Raymond Lim, who wrote: "Sumi Selamat, if Alive or Train To Busan 2 is screening?" Christ Ramos asked: "Are they finally showing the new James Bond movie?"

YC Tan's exclamation is extravagantly punctuated with excitement: "Finally?!?!?!????"

It has been a long wait as cinemas have been closed since March in the fight against the Covid-19 outbreak.

The reopening, which is the result of consultations between the authorities and cinema operators, will take place with added safety precautions.

These include a 1m social distancing seat configuration. Up to five patrons, comprising friends and family, can sit together without the 1m distancing requirement, but different groups of patrons have to observe it.

Also, there will be a limit of 50 patrons per cinema hall. Masks will be mandatory at all times, including inside the hall, except when consuming food and drink.

But, wondered ST Facebook readers, have they seen how people snack and slurp drinks all through a movie? Or is it too dark to see what goes on in the cinema hall to create an effective rule that won't be bent by the bochap like a cheap straw?

The reopening of cinemas will take place with added safety precautions such as a 1m social distancing seat configuration. Also, there will be a limit of 50 patrons for each cinema hall.
The reopening of cinemas will take place with added safety precautions such as a 1m social distancing seat configuration. Also, there will be a limit of 50 patrons for each cinema hall. ST PHOTO: TIMOTHY DAVID

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Au Kah Kay said: "Cinema patrons who bring snacks and drinks into the cinema are likely to consume them slowly throughout the duration of the movie with no mask. It defeats the purpose of mandating masks."

Jewel Gem had doubts about strict checks to make sure masks go back on when the eating and drinking stops, writing: "It's a joke! So dark who will check if they wear masks. Broad daylight at coffee shop not wearing masks. Let alone in the dark. Let those who are brave walk into the movies."

Nic Quay also said: "Cinema workers will so on, boh? Go into the theatre to check if you wearing mask during movie session; shine torchlight on you, ah? Who are we kidding?"

Michelle Loh speculated on the motives for reopening cinemas: "For the survival of cinema operators, you put the lives of dozens who dare to take on the risk in danger. I'm amazed, after all the prevention measures during the (circuit breaker) period."


Some ST Facebook readers defended the reopening of cinemas by comparing them to commuting via buses and trains, or dining at eateries.

Low Yin Pheng Low said: "In cinema, if all mask up, sit at a distance, the chances of getting hit are very, very low as there isn't physical contact, like touching what the others touched. If not, those selling food at malls would be affected as they are there the whole day, touching many things like money, surfaces, plates, cups.

"I think it is a myth or overstatement to say the cinema's enclosed space is a good breeding ground (for the virus). If cinemas are good breeding grounds, then no one should be selling cooked food in an air-con place."


Wait, is this a defence of cinemas reopening, or an attack on dining in air-conditioned eateries? And there is this comment too - Dare Chia said: "Is it seriously any worse than sitting during a long, crowded bus ride?"


ST Facebook readers also mulled over the limit of 50 patrons per cinema hall.

That number was too high for Rachel Vanessa, when it came to smaller cinemas. "Some halls are really small. Going by percentage of total seats may be wiser."

That number was too small for Teik Yong Liew, when it came to bigger halls. "There are many different halls and for those huge halls, having the 50 per hall limit is just stupid. As long as you have safe distancing implemented and masks worn, why restrict so much?"

For Rose May, the preferred hall is the one at home. "Imagine sitting (in the cinema) for two hours, being victim to possible airborne viruses. Some things can wait, especially entertainment.

"I can easily do so for a while at home. Use the money to invest in a good pair of headphones. I can eat any food I want, instead of overpriced popcorn and sugary drinks."

Syafaa Yusoff had some food for thought for those who want naysayers to pipe down and let them enjoy going to the movies: "For those who said, 'No one force you to go, you just stay home, lah!' - isn't allowing access to such activities basically enabling others to be irresponsible?

"Yah sure, we stay home to protect ourselves, but those who partake in high-risk activities and get infected lurk among us, and we in turn get infected unknowingly even when we take maximum precautions, is that fair?

"Think about it."

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on July 12, 2020, with the headline Netizens mock mandatory mask rule for cinemas. Subscribe