Waiting for free Covid-19 masks? Vending machines rolled out ahead of distribution from Jan 10-23

The masks will come in new sizes, according to information printed on the latest machines.
The masks will come in new sizes, according to information printed on the latest machines. ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG

SINGAPORE - New mask distribution machines are being installed islandwide ahead of Temasek Foundation's sixth distribution exercise next month to protect residents against Covid-19.

Residents can claim their free masks from the vending machines from Jan 10 to 23.

The masks will come in new sizes, according to information printed on the latest machines.

When contacted by The Straits Times, Temasek Foundation said it will provide more details of the upcoming distribution next week.

The foundation has distributed a variety of mask types in previous distribution drives, from disposable surgical masks to reusable ones.

In the most recent exercise from Aug 26 to Sept 26, nearly 1.13 million households collected 25 N95 respirator masks and a box of 50 medical-grade surgical masks each for free.

The exercise had some 130 collection points islandwide, including 15 CapitaLand malls and selected supermarkets.

Ms Ho Ching, chief executive of Temasek at the time, said on Facebook in August that the surgical masks had a 95 per cent filtration efficiency or better, and should be worn by those with flu-like symptoms or on visits to a hospital or a nursing home.

The N95 masks were to be worn for high-risk jobs such as looking after Covid-19 patients, or if a person has tested positive on an antigen rapid test kit, she added.

Ms Ho, who is now on the Temasek Trust board of directors since stepping down as Temasek CEO on Oct 1, said: "With the medical-grade surgical and N95 masks... we have an additional option for better protection."

In March, Temasek issued reusable masks made by Livinguard that were said to be 99.75 per cent effective in reducing bacteria on the inside surface of the mask.

The mask featured a water-repellent antimicrobial layer on the outside and an antibacterial treatment of the inner layer that kills bacteria from the wearer's saliva.

In March, Temasek issued reusable masks made by Livinguard. PHOTO: ST FILE

It could be washed once a week and used daily for up to seven months if washed properly.

Experts said triple-layered reusable face masks are sufficient to protect wearers against the virus and that it was important for the mask to be worn properly.

Dr Teo Tee Hui, a council member at The Institution of Engineers, Singapore, said for a mask to be effective, it should have three layers with a non-woven fabric in the middle to absorb particles and a water repellent outer layer.

Dr Leong Hoe Nam, an infectious diseases specialist at Rophi Clinic, said it is important to select a mask that fits well to prevent unfiltered air from leaking in.

A good way to check if a mask is suitable would be to breathe through it and ensure that air is not flowing through the sides of the mask, he added.

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