Temasek to distribute free N95, surgical masks in end-August to stop Delta Covid-19 variant

Under the new exercise, each household will receive 50 medical grade surgical masks and 25 N95 respirator masks. ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI

SINGAPORE - Another mask distribution exercise is to start this month. And, this time, Temasek Foundation will hand out free surgical and N95 masks.

The Delta variant is twice as contagious as the other variants that caused Covid-19 last year, and will require Singapore residents to wear more effective masks to bring down infection numbers, Temasek chief executive Ho Ching said in a Facebook post on Wednesday (Aug 4).

Noting that each case has an infectivity rate of between five and six people, she said 80 per cent of the population needs to wear "80 per cent effective masks or better" to curb the spread.

To facilitate this, Temasek Foundation is working with CapitaLand malls and larger supermarkets to distribute masks using SP Group utility bills, she said.

Under the new exercise, each household will receive 50 medical grade surgical masks and 25 N95 respirator masks.

The exercise, originally scheduled to start after National Day, has been pushed back to the end of this month to give participating organisations more time to test the system, Ms Ho added.

Temasek Foundation also said there was no mask distribution exercise on Wednesday (Aug 4), after a photo of a banner advertising the distribution of masks made its rounds online.

Only a trial of the collection exercise, not open to the public, is taking place from Aug 4.

Ms Ho, who is the wife of Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, said: "As the boxes of masks are much bigger than the little oximeters, the pharmacies do not have enough space to cater for mass collection. Hence, the pharmacies are not part of this coming collection exercise for (two or three) boxes of masks."

Pharmacies were involved when oximeters were given out between July 5 and Aug 5.

Explaining the reason for medical grade surgical masks, Ms Ho said that they had 95 per cent filtration efficiency or better. She added that N95 masks are worn for high-risk jobs such as looking after Covid-19 patients or doing mass swabbing exercises.

In comparison, reusable double-layer masks as well as many of the pleated disposable masks can offer protection of only about 80 per cent.

Ms Ho said: "With the medical grade surgical and N95 masks with effectiveness of 95 per cent or better, we have an additional option for better protection."

She added that a medical grade surgical mask should be worn by those with flu-like symptoms or on visits to the hospital or a nursing home. N95 masks are meant to be used if a person has tested positive on an antigen rapid test kit.

Household representatives are encouraged to reduce plastic waste by taking their own bags to carry the boxes of masks when the collection exercise begins.

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