Most Singaporeans left home yesterday with half their faces covered as the nation started donning masks, a mandatory move in Singapore's fight to curb the spread of the coronavirus.
From today, those who fail to do so will be fined: $300 for the first offence and $1,000 fine for the second offence. Egregious cases will face prosecution in court.
Though many interviewed said they understood the need for a mask when out and about, some said they found it difficult to breathe after 30 minutes.
Housewife Clara Chan said she wore one while walking to a nearby supermarket but had to remove it after 10 minutes.
"I needed to breathe and felt I would have fainted otherwise. Singapore's hot weather makes it very difficult to wear a mask for long," said the 57-year-old.
Psychotherapist Amanda Ang, 32, described it as a necessary discomfort. "It is not very easy to breathe when wearing one. Also, it gets wet from perspiration."
But the discomfort may have its benefits, she added with a laugh. "Maybe because they are so uncomfortable, more people will stay at home now."
The wearing of masks outside of the home is a must for all, with some exceptions. An article on the www.gov.sg website indicated that children between two and six years old are encouraged to wear masks when outside but are not required to do so. Masks are not recommended for children under two for child safety reasons.
Those doing strenuous exercise such as running or jogging are also not required to wear a mask.
The Health Ministry said it will be flexible in enforcing the rule on some who may have difficulties wearing a mask, like children with special needs.
Financial adviser Vincent Kumar, 36, found it difficult to wear a mask initially but stuck with it as "it is the responsible thing to do", he said. "I'm very wary of the virus so I've been wearing a mask for about a month. It isn't the most comfortable thing but we must all play our part."
SLAPPED AND PUNCHED
I was upset to learn that criminal force has been used against quite a number of our officers on the front line. Today, an enforcement officer was slapped by a man who did not comply with safe distancing measures, and a safe distancing ambassador was punched by an errant member of the public when advised to wear his mask properly. These are but two of the cases the Singapore Police Force will investigate. Let me state categorically that such behaviour is unacceptable.
MINISTER FOR THE ENVIRONMENT AND WATER RESOURCES MASAGOS ZULKIFLI, in a Facebook post yesterday.
Civil servant Ginny Goh, 45, said her family has been wearing masks for the last few weeks. Her three teenage children found them inconvenient at the beginning but are now used to it.
She added: "I'm not surprised at the fines for not wearing a mask as not everyone has cooperated in complying with the safe distancing measures. Hopefully, this will make everyone fall in line."
Enforcement of social distancing measures has intensified in the past week.
Nearly 3,000 enforcement officers and ambassadors from about 50 agencies have been deployed daily to public spaces in Housing Board estates, to ensure people keep a safe distance from one another.
As of Tuesday, more than 500 fines had been issued to individuals for flouting the rules. This included people who ate at hawker centres instead of buying the food and taking it home to eat.
Earlier this week, the Municipal Services Office introduced a safe distancing feedback category on its OneService app that allows people to report on municipal matters.
Daily, about 700 reports are received, said Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Grace Fu in a Facebook post on Tuesday.
Parents told The Straits Times that explaining the need to wear masks to their young children can be a challenge.
Ms Marianne Wee-Slater said her daughters, Isadora, 10, and Lila, five, find them uncomfortable.
"They don't comprehend why they need to wear a mask all the time. Plus, the reusable masks we got from the Government do not fit my younger daughter," said the 41-year-old director of a public relations agency.
She has made an online order of child-size masks made of cloth.
"I got some Pokemon masks because my children love the characters and I hope it will motivate them to wear their masks."