250,000 masks collected on first day of free mask drive; residents pleased with choice of 2 sizes

People collecting new reusable masks at Hougang Community Club on Jan 10, 2022. ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI
The masks are more breathable than standard N95 masks and are reusable for up to 30 washes. ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI
The masks are more breathable than standard N95 masks and are reusable for up to 30 washes. ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI

SINGAPORE - About 250,000 reusable masks were collected from vending machines on Monday (Jan 10), the first day of a free reusable mask collection drive.

The free mask drive, which proceeded smoothly, is Temasek Foundation’s sixth in its efforts to better protect Singapore residents against Covid-19.

In the latest initiative, every resident can collect an antimicrobial mask with an N95 filtration middle layer by keying in their identity card numbers or scanning their identity cards at #StayMasked vending machines islandwide.

The masks, which are more breathable than standard N95 masks and are reusable for up to 30 washes, come in two sizes - L and M - at designated collection points such as community centres and clubs and residents' committee centres.

At Hougang Community Club (CC), one of the collection locations and also a paediatric vaccination centre, the queues moved quickly.

Most of the people The Straits Times spoke to went there not only to collect their masks, but also to get booster jabs or have their children vaccinated.

Residents also found the process quick and convenient, spending less than five minutes in queues and with the collection process itself taking less than a minute.

Some of them who went for their jabs did not know that the mask drive started on Monday and were pleasantly surprised to be able to collect one.

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Bus driver Khor Kar Hoe, 27, said: "I actually came to Hougang CC to get a booster jab but saw the queue at the vending machine and realised I could collect a mask."

Mr Khor, who had collected a reusable mask from one of Temasek Foundation's previous mask drives, said that he was looking forward to trying on the larger size as he thought it would be more comfortable.

Another resident, software engineer Ashok Enugala, 37, was pleased that the mask came in a larger size this time because he found the one-size masks issued previously too small for him.

Mr Ashok Enugala and his daughter Ananya collecting their new reusable masks at Hougang Community Club on Jan 10, 2022. ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI

Mr Enugala, who took his 11-year-old daughter to the CC for her paediatric vaccination, said: "The old masks were so tight, it was difficult to breathe. The new large-sized mask is  comfortable."

Sales manager Jeff Quek, 48, who collected a total of seven masks for his family, said the masks were well designed with comfortable padding for the nose bridge.

Mr Jeff Quek and his son Eton collecting new reusable masks for his family at Hougang Community Club on Jan 10, 2022. Mr Quek has five children. ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI

"When I saw the design and the stylish grey colour, I immediately decided to collect my masks," he said. He did not collect the masks from Temasek Foundation previously because he did not like their designs.

Assistants were stationed near the vending machines at the CC to help residents scan their identity cards and determine the right sizes.

Mr Ong Ah Chai, a 57-year-old unemployed paraplegic, was thankful for the help he got and found the collection process convenient.

Mr Ong Ah Chai collecting his new reusable mask at Hougang Community Club on Jan 10, 2022. ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI

However, there were people who opted not to collect the masks.

Mr Ken Poon, 44, a facility manager, was at the CC to collect a TraceTogether token for his son but decided against picking up a mask for the boy. He said: "I don't think he will use it, it is important not to waste resources."

While the collection went well at Hougang CC, a small number of residents could not collect their masks due to vending machines malfunctioning. 

Retiree Michael Koh, 69, and his neighbours were unable to collect their masks from an unmanned vending machine at a RC centre in Paya Lebar on Monday morning.

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Mr Koh said: “Today is the first day of the drive and I thought thorough checks would have been conducted before the machines were rolled out. I did not expect the machine to fail us on the first day.”

When ST checked with Temasek Foundation, its spokesman said at around 3pm on Monday that it was aware of isolated incidents of masks being jammed in some vending machines. 

Residents unable to collect new reusable masks from the mask vending machine at Blk 132 Lorong Ah Soo on Jan 10, 2022. ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI

“Temasek Foundation is continuing to monitor the vending machines islandwide both remotely and on the ground,” the spokesman said.

The mask distribution drive runs till Jan 23 and the public can refer to this website for machine locations and stock availability.

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