Singapore's going to be almost mask-free soon, and it's a split decision among Singaporeans. Some of us are overjoyed, while others are still debating if it's wise to do. There might even be a small group of you who's confused about the rules in general ?
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Fret not though, if you've been asking yourself, "Should I still wear a mask in certain situations or places" - we got you covered with a guide to answer all those mask-related questions that's got you scratching your head ?
Before we start, let's just refresh your memory on the latest mask rules in Singapore! FromAugust 29th, you don't have to wear mask indoors anymore, except in healthcare facilities and on public transport, or i.e. places where essential services are carried out in enclosed and crowded areas, and which are frequently used by vulnerable people ?
Examples of indoor places that do not require mask-wearing are airports, private transports such as taxis and school buses (although you should check beforehand due to differing company policies), flights and ferries to and from destinations that don't need mask-wearing onboard (including airports), retail areas in MRT & LRT stations and naturally ventilated bus interchanges ?
So now, back to the question of the day: "Need to wear mask or not?" ?
1. Are masks protective when I wear it even if others are not wearing it?
Yes, definitely! Masks are still effective at helping protect people from infection as they block particles from entering your mouth and leaving others' mouths. Covid-19 is most commonly transmitted through saliva, respiratory secretions, or secretion droplets, and masks help to reduce such transmission by at least 50%, according to multiple studies ?
This big drop in risk of infection comes in handy when you're in enclosed and crowded places, as described by the task force such as hospitals. Many patients for instance, may not be wearing masks, so if you do have to go to the hospital, masking up will definitely be the first barrier of protection you'll need ?
2. But are masks still effective to curb the Covid-19 spread?
Well yes... and no. While masks are effective on an individual level, there is little scientific evidence to prove that face coverings offer much added protection, and thus it's likely doing little to curb the spread of the virus overall. However, that does not mean you should put away with masks completely ?
Masks work by erecting a barrier that can stop those airborne virus particles from being inhaled by an uninfected person. Furthermore, when you're out and about at enclosed and crowded places such as public transport, there are people (i.e strangers you've never met before in!) who have the coronavirus in their bodies and can spread it, but are not showing any symptoms, so here's where masks again, is the first layer of protection you'll need - protecting you from others! ?
There's still some points to note though, that may affect its efficiency. For starters, the efficacy of the mask in curbing the spread of droplets is dependent on how you wear your mask. Minute droplets escape if the mask does not cover your nose! Nevertheless, masks do offer a relatively amount of protection since the mode of transmission of the virus has not changed yet - i.e. via mouth and/or nose. Couple it with other preventive measures such as frequent hand-washing, you'll be able to help slow down the transmission! ?
The road to being completely Covid-free is still a long way, but masks do contribute significantly to making the journey much bearable and less strenuous!
3. If I still do choose to wear a mask, what masks should I get?
In a sense, you don't really have a choice to stop wearing the mask completely, as the government has mandated masks in certain areas, as explained above ? So when you find yourself there, you should have a mask that you'll wear regularly, fits well and is comfortable.
Of course, the most ideal type of mask is the N95/KN95, which offers the highest level of protection as it filters out both large and small particles when you inhale. However, it has a tighter fitting, which might make it difficult for people to breathe in if it is worn properly. Furthermore, N95 masks are usually reserved for health care providers. Health care providers must be trained and pass a fit test before using a surgical N95 mask! ?
You can simply opt to have a cloth mask or surgical mask with you at all times - it may offer a lower level of protection, but it's inexpensive, high in supply, and offers enough protection for the general masses. Here's some advise on ensuring you maximised the use of your masks:
- The most effective cloths masks are made of multiple layers of tightly woven fabric like cotton. A mask with layers (at least 2!) will stop more droplets from getting through your mask or escaping from it.
- Bring spare masks and change it every 6 hours as germs are collected on it! Also, if it does get wet or dirty, at least you have clean ones to spare!
- Don't touch your mask while wearing it. If you do, wash or sanitize your hand.
- Tie it behind your head or use ear loops. Make sure it's snug against your face.
- Regularly wash cloth masks in the washing machine or by hand. (They can be washed along with other laundry.) Dry them in the dryer or hang them outside in the sun.
- Throw away disposable masks after wearing them once (if you're using a surgical mask).
4. Is it safe for my kids to not mask up in school?
PM Lee added in the National Day Rally last Sunday (21st August), that masks will also be optional in classes. He assured that parents shouldn't worry as they have assessed its safety, adding that children "need to be able to see the facial expressions of their teachers and of each other", as it's "crucial for their learning and development".
His comment however, resulted in mixed feelings among parents, who felt that the change of mask rulings clashes with upcoming exams. According to TODAY, some felt that cases will go up again as more people go mask-less, and fear that their child might be infected ? Others welcome the change as a way for their children to be more participative in classes, and understand different social cues. It doesn't matter which side you stand on; your child's health is still the top priority for you - so should your kids still wear the mask? ?
We'll start with the data on hand. According to The Straits Times, Health Minister Ong Ye Kung shared that young children are generally at lower risk of severe illness when infected with Covid-19. As of the time of writing, 20% of the population infected with Covid-19 are those between the ages of 0 to 19 years old, with those under 12 making up less than 12%. There are also lesser children hospitalised (19), as compared to those in vulnerable age groups of 70 and above (192).
Average daily infections over a 7-day period fell to 2,700 as of Tuesday, as daily infections continued to fall from a record 26,032 infections on Feb. 22. Most of those infected in Singapore have mild or no symptoms. Parents may refer to the incident of 2 children under the ages of 12 who has passed on so close together last month, however the complications among paediatric Covid-19 cases are rare, experts shared.
Plus, it was announced by the Ministry of Health today that Singapore is also recommending a booster shot for children aged 5 to 11 years. Our high vaccination rate has contributed tremendously to cutting down infection rates as well! As of July 31, 76 per cent of five- to 11-year-olds and 97 per cent of 12- to 19-year-olds have been fully vaccinated.
Back to the question - should your kids go mask-less at school? No mask-wearing can be good for your child in terms of social development and encouraging better learning in classes, especially if this is their first year of school, however you and your child should keep up the ways to prevent the infection. Practise good hygiene, keep your child at home if he or she is feeling unwell, keep up the mask-wearing. Nevertheless, you know your child best, so make the decision that protects your child's safety! ?
5. Can I choose not to mask up if I haven't had Covid-19 yet?
Of course, for those who are unvaccinated or immunocompromised, masking up is definitely a must, and highly recommended at any settings, indoors or outdoors. But what if you haven't contracted Covid-19 (assuming you have already been fully vaccinated with a booster shot)? It really boils down to your own personal level of comfort.
For me, I haven't contracted Covid-19 (and don't plan to, frankly ?), but sometimes, I don't really use the masks in outdoor settings such as parks and beaches. However, I personally prefer to continue wearing masks indoor as I do not feel comfortable being in close distance with people in an enclosed area without having some level of protection. While I do enjoy being maskless outdoors, completely removing it indoors might take a while for me to transition into ?
Some questions you might ask yourself is this: a) do I live with immunocompromised people?, b) how comfortable am I in enclosed settings to be completely mask-less?, c) do I have any symptoms, and lastly, d) am I a hypochondriac? (yes, I am a little ?).
6. What are the risks of flying without a mask?
Another major news for masks and travel has also been announced today: Non-fully vaccinated visitors entering Singapore from 11:59 p.m., Aug. 28 won’t need to quarantine, but will need to test negative within two days before their arrival. And while masks will no longer be required in airports, travelers will still need them on flights to and from places which stipulate mask-wearing on board ? Flights such as Singapore Airlines, British Airways and Virgin Atlantic are some of the many that have loosened the mask restriction on board.
Experts say transmission risk is lower when a plane is flying because of the way the air is filtered. But they still recommend masking during air travel because of heightened risk inside airports, when filtration systems are turned off on the plane, and people are up in the aisle moving and talking before departure and after arrival. We think you'll want to start your trip on a good note, with no concerns of whether you've contracted Covid-19 or not, but we'll leave it up to you to decide ?
Final verdict - to be mask-less or not?
This is a decision that really differs from person to person because it boils down to multiple factors such as your level of comfortability, the type of environment you work or go to school in, who you're living with and more ?
Experts in Singapore has shared that enforcing mandatory mask-wearing indoors is not needed, since over 90 per cent of the population has been vaccinated and over half the population has been infected with Covid-19. PM Lee adds in his speech, that "people should still keep their masks on in any settings they are uncomfortable with, and the reality is that wearing masks does reduce the risk of respiratory infections, including influenza and common colds, not just against Covid-19.”
Whatever you choose to decide, just remember that we still live in a pandemic nonetheless, and you should stay prepared in the face of any sudden changes - don't throw those masks just yet. Still, this is a move that many of us welcome gratefully, as we can somehow enjoy a semblance of the normal we missed pre-pandemic! ?
P.S. Looking for activities to do in Singapore? Check out these articles!