Some will continue to mask up outdoors, even when it becomes optional

The wearing of masks in outdoor settings will soon be optional. ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI

SINGAPORE - Each day, business analyst Sethu Raman Ganesh Kumar goes on a three-hour walk, covering between 16km and 18km.

His mask is something he never leaves behind.

And even though he no longer needs to don one for his walks from Tuesday (March 29), the 38-year-old said he would still adopt a careful approach.

"I always bring my mask along and if I see it's crowded I'll wear it," said Mr Ganesh Kumar.

"I will still continue doing so because we still need to maintain (caution) for a couple of months even with the new measures."

The wearing of masks in outdoor settings will soon be optional, as part of several key changes to measures implemented in the fight against Covid-19. Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong announced these moves on Thursday (March 24) as Singapore gears towards a new phase of living with the virus.

Individuals, however, are encouraged to still wear their masks even when outdoors for personal protection and to protect others, especially in crowded areas, said the multi-ministry task force tackling Covid-19.

Indoor places refer to all buildings and spaces with clearly defined entrances and exits, such as offices, malls and public transportation. These also include hawker centres and coffee shops.

Places that are sheltered but with open access generally, such as Housing Board void decks, bus stops, and naturally ventilated bus interchanges, are regarded as outdoor areas.

In addition to making masks optional outdoors, there were also changes to guidelines for safe distancing.

While safe distancing is no longer required between individuals or groups for mask-on settings - now up to 10, from five previously - there is still the need for the 1m spacing between those in mask-off situations.

The task force added that there is still a need to guard against gathering of big crowds, even if they have their masks on, and therefore will continue to impose capacity limits.

Choa Chu Kang resident James Tay said he would continue to wear a mask most of the time.

Referring to memes circulating on Thursday on how people would have to toggle between indoor and outdoor settings for tasks such as taking public transport or eating lunch outdoors, the 34-year-old private educator said: “I feel it makes sense to have a mask on at all times, until we get to a stage where masks are completely no longer mandatory.”

Others, like senior executive Farah Aqilah, welcomed the change but added: "I think it will take time before I get used to it. We've worn masks everywhere for so long now that I tend to feel uncomfortable without it in most public places, as I feel too exposed."

One other key change announced by PM Lee was an increase in the cap on events that feature more than 1,000 individuals, to 75 per cent of capacity limits, up from half.

This will be applied to attractions and cruises, live concerts and sporting events, social gatherings such as gala dinners, religious gatherings, wedding receptions and solemnisations, funerals, as well as meetings, incentives, conventions and exhibitions (Mice) events for businesses.

But masks may still be required even for events that are considered to be in outdoor settings.

Task force guidelines state that masks are required for "activities which involve... cheering by audiences/spectators/participants". This will apply to Singapore Premier League football games, for example.

Read next: What you need to know about Singapore's latest Covid-19 rules

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