Coronavirus: Residents can collect improved reusable masks from May 26 to June 14

The new masks are more comfortable to wear and have better filtration qualities. ST PHOTO: GAVIN FOO

SINGAPORE - Singapore residents can collect improved reusable masks from next Tuesday (May 26), in a third mask distribution exercise that will span three weeks.

The latest distribution of new masks - which are more comfortable to wear and have better filtration qualities - will continue until June 14. The previous two rounds lasted about a week each.

About six million reusable masks have been prepared for the exercise, similar to the previous one. Collection counters will be set up at 109 community clubs (CCs) and 661 residents' committee centres (RCs) across Singapore.

This time, residents can also pick them up from 24-hour vending machines. Some 400 machines will be placed at all CCs for those unable to pick up their free masks from the collection counters.

Residents with a valid identification card can collect one reusable mask each. This includes foreign domestic workers, foreign workers not living in dormitories and international students living in hostels. The Manpower Ministry will distribute masks to foreign workers living in dormitories.

Residents who want to pick up their masks from the CCs or RCs can do so only from 10am to 6pm daily in the first week of the collection period, from next Tuesday to June 1.

Those who want to collect their masks from vending machines can do so any time during the three-week period.

The vending machines, provided by Temasek Foundation, will be operational from 10am next Tuesday. Each machine has an attached guide detailing three steps for collecting the masks.

Such efforts will allow everyone access to the masks without having to rush for them, Trade and Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing told reporters on Thursday (May 21) during a visit to Pek Kio Community Centre.

The reusable masks, which are available in adult and child sizes, use newer materials to improve their comfort and resistance to droplets. Both types are made of at least three layers of material and have a filtration efficiency of at least 95 per cent, even after 30 washes.

Mr Chan, who is also the deputy chairman of the People's Association, shared that the Government had gone ahead with the first generation of reusable masks - which were distributed last month (April) - because they were the "fastest available" at that time.

Then, it was already looking for newer materials to make better masks, he added. "So there was a gap between the first batch of reusable masks, which was a basic cloth material, and the second batch of reusable masks, which is an improved cloth material."

To avoid crowding at the collection points, residents are encouraged to collect the masks on behalf of those who live with them. They have to bring with them their household members' identification cards, birth certificates or any government-issued identification with a barcode.

Safe distancing measures and temperature-taking will be in place at the collection points.

The high-touch areas of the vending machines are treated with self-disinfecting coating, which can last for three months. The machines will also be cleaned and restocked regularly.

Priority for child-size masks will be given to those aged 12 and younger.

Adult identity documents are eligible only for adult-size masks, while those for children who are 12 years old and younger qualify for either an adult or kid-size mask.

The adult-size masks are produced by textile manufacturer Ghim Li in collaboration with Nanyang Technological University, while the child-size ones are by textile firm Ramatex and the Agency for Science, Technology and Research.

The records of those who have collected their masks will be reflected on the application RedeemSG, which has been developed by the Open Government Products team from the Government Technology Agency of Singapore.

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Residents can visit the MaskGoWhere website for the latest information on the mask collection exercise.

They can also check on the availability of the masks in the vending machines via the website before going to collect them.

Alternatively, residents can refer to community notice boards, digital display panels or their local CC's social media channels for more information on the distribution.

This national effort is supported by the Defence Ministry and the Singapore Armed Forces, which helped to transport the masks to the various CCs.

The first mask distribution exercise was held in February, when all 1.3 million households in Singapore were each given a pack of four surgical masks. The second exercise in April saw residents receiving reusable masks.

Besides boosting its supply of reusable masks, Singapore has also ramped up local production of surgical masks and tapped diverse sources of supply.

Mr Chan said the Government has been monitoring the global situation closely, including anticipating possible supply disruptions.

The world supply and demand situation is "still very fluid", and the need to stockpile masks for future disruptions has to be an ongoing effort, he added. "Nobody knows how long and how widespread this pandemic will be, and one should never be complacent about any supply lines, including masks."

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