Do I have to wear a face shield and how do I clean it?

A stall owner wearing a face shield while serving customers at Tiong Bahru Market. Experts say that when wearing a face shield, make sure your whole face is covered, from ear to ear and forehead to chin. There should be no gaps between the securing h
A stall owner wearing a face shield while serving customers at Tiong Bahru Market. Experts say that when wearing a face shield, make sure your whole face is covered, from ear to ear and forehead to chin. There should be no gaps between the securing headpiece and the plastic shield.ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI

Face shields are becoming part of the new normal, with the Government permitting their use among the public as an alternative to face masks. The Straits Times answers your questions on where and when to use face shields, and how to clean them.

Q: Do I have to wear a face shield?

A: According to Ministry of Health (MOH) guidelines updated on Tuesday, face masks should still be used over face shields in most situations, although both offer adequate basic protection.

MOH said face masks should be used when leaving the home or in situations where it is difficult to ensure safe distancing, such as on public transport.

Face shields, on the other hand, can be used in situations where it is impractical to use a face mask and where safe distancing can be maintained, such as teachers speaking for long periods in front of a class.

They can also be used by individuals with difficulties wearing face masks, such as young children or people with breathing difficulties.

But those in high-risk settings, such as healthcare workers, should wear both a mask and a shield. Workers in the food and beverage sector who handle food, including those who do not come into close contact with customers, have to wear a face mask instead of a face shield.

Plastic spit guards that predominantly cover the mouth are not considered masks or shields.

Q: Will face shields be distributed and who will receive them?

A: Pre-school and primary school pupils returning to school on June 2 will each get a reusable face shield, courtesy of a donation by Temasek Foundation.

The face shields can be worn to eat and drink during recess or snack breaks, the Ministry of Education (MOE) said.

Students and teachers must wear either a face mask or face shield at all times when in school, except during strenuous physical activities such as running during physical education lessons.

Face shields are also being given out to workers in the transport sector such as bus drivers.

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Q: How do I wear my face shield, and how should I clean it?

A: Make sure your whole face is covered, from ear to ear and forehead to chin. There should be no gaps between the securing headpiece and the plastic shield.

 
 

One advantage of face shields over masks is that they are easier to clean. "(Face shields) should be cleaned daily with soap and water, and dried thoroughly before reuse," said infectious disease expert Paul Tambyah from the National University of Singapore's Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine.

Other advantages of face shields are that they do not have to be removed for eating, or for an older person to hear clearly when a person wearing a shield is speaking, Professor Tambyah added.

MOE noted that washing a face shield with soap and water will help maintain its anti-fog properties.

(Note: The Ministry of Health said on June 1 that people should wear face masks, instead of face shields, following a review of an earlier policy in which either option had been allowed. Face shields are allowed only for some, including children 12 years old and below, and in certain settings such as in classrooms.)

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 28, 2020, with the headline 'Do I have to wear a face shield and how do I clean it?'. Print Edition | Subscribe