For the second time in recent months, Singapore residents headed to community clubs and residents' committee centres across the island yesterday to collect their masks as the country steps up its efforts to combat the coronavirus outbreak.
This time, they were collecting reusable masks, following Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong's announcement last Friday that the Government will no longer discourage people who are well from wearing masks, because of evidence that some people can be infected but not show any symptoms.
The distribution of the free reusable masks will take place until Sunday, with collection points set up at designated community clubs and centres, and residents' committee centres.
Yesterday, safe distancing measures were in place for people in the queues, and temperature taking was done before residents could enter the premises. People's Association staff and volunteers were also seen wearing masks and gloves during the distribution.
For residents, the reusable masks were unfamiliar to some who were more used to the blue surgical masks. The masks come in a few colours, including grey and black, and in two sizes - regular and small.
Madam Leong Wee Fang, 61, a clerk in an electrical firm, said: "I've never used this type of mask before, but it's better than nothing. Psychologically, it helps me feel safe."
She was collecting her mask with her husband at Nee Soon South Community Club, after having breakfast and buying groceries at the nearby market.
She said that people were already in line when they arrived at 10am, and although there was a short queue, they collected their masks in under 15 minutes.
Ms Indarthi, 43, who goes by only one name, collected four masks for her family at Nee Soon South Community Club. While Ms Indarthi, who is a housewife, is aware that the collection period lasts a week, yesterday was the only day she could take her husband's identification card to collect his mask, as he would be at work for the rest of the week.
Mr Wai Kiu, 30, who works in an insurance company, said he felt safe while collecting his mask at Potong Pasir Community Club, due to the measures such as temperature taking, and the volunteers and staff wearing gloves when interacting with residents.
Nee Soon GRC MP Lee Bee Wah, who was at Nee Soon South Community Club, told The Straits Times: "This morning is the first session, so naturally, people are trying to come early. So instead of 10am, we started at 9.30am."
She said the process was quite smooth and residents were able to collect their masks in about 10 minutes.
Potong Pasir MP Sitoh Yih Pin told ST that the queueing process did not take more than five minutes at Potong Pasir Community Club.
"It is systematic and orderly. Residents also avoid overcrowding by asking one member of their family to collect on their behalf," he said.
Minister for Trade and Industry Chan Chun Sing visited mask collection stations in Tanjong Pagar GRC and Radin Mas yesterday morning.
In a Facebook post, Mr Chan, who is an MP for Tanjong Pagar GRC, said the process was very smooth and residents could collect their masks quickly. "Heartened to see everyone going about the collection calmly. There was no rush. Our volunteers and colleagues were also in good spirits," he wrote.
The Ministry of Defence is running the national call centre to address public queries on the mask collection, it said in a Facebook post yesterday.
"Personnel manning these phone lines include volunteers from Mindef and the SAF (Singapore Armed Forces) as well as clan associations. There are also national servicemen who finished their full-time service in March, grounded staff from Singapore Airlines and other retrenched workers, who will be employed by Mindef on short-term contracts," it said.
The call centre will operate from 9am to 9pm daily until Sunday, in line with the mask distribution exercise, and members of the public can call 1800-333-9999 if they have questions.