Coronavirus: Singapore Govt will no longer discourage wearing of masks, to give reusable masks to all households

People collect their surgical face masks at Hougang on Feb 1, 2020. ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI

SINGAPORE - The Government will no longer discourage people who are well from wearing masks because there is evidence showing a few people can be infected but not show any symptoms, said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong on Friday (April 3).

The move also comes in the wake of the World Health Organisation's (WHO) reviewing of its stance on the issue of face masks, he added, as he announced that the Government will distribute reusable masks to all households from Sunday.

Explaining the new approach to the wearing of masks, he said: "We now think there are some cases out there in the community going undetected, though probably still not that many.

"We also now have evidence that an infected person can show no symptoms, and yet still pass on the virus to others... Therefore we will no longer discourage people from wearing masks."

The wearing of a mask may also help to protect others, in case a person has the virus but does not know it, he added.

Hence, the Government will distribute reusable masks to all households from Sunday. Surgical masks will still be conserved for people who really need it, such as healthcare workers.

"But remember, mask or no mask, you still need to wash your hands, and keep a safe distance away from other people," Mr Lee added.

On Singapore's previous policy to only encourage those who are unwell to wear masks, Mr Lee said that it was based on scientific advice and guidelines from the WHO.

"We also did not have community spread in Singapore then, so it was very unlikely for you to run into anyone with Covid-19 on the street, much less be infected by them," he added.

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The Ministry of Health said in a statement that it will distribute reusable masks to all residents with registered home addresses.

The distribution will take place progressively from Sunday to April 12, and collection points will be set up at designated community clubs/centres and residents' committee centres.

At a press conference following Mr Lee's address, Minister for Trade and Industry Chan Chun Sing said every Singapore resident will get a reusable mask.

He said the masks should be washed and dried properly at the end of a day of use, adding that volunteers will help to provide the guidelines on usage to those collecting the masks.

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