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Singapore: Government Distributes Reusable Masks to All Households

(Apr. 6, 2020) In remarks on the coronavirus situation delivered on April 3, 2020, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong announced that the government of Singapore would no longer discourage people who are well from wearing protective masks. Rather, according to the prime minister, the government would distribute reusable masks to all households in Singapore beginning April 5.

The government had previously advised the public that only those who were not feeling well needed to wear a mask, but had, nevertheless, given each household four surgical masks to use in case they fell ill and, in Lee’s words, “to give people peace of mind.” However, said Lee, “the situation is changing,” as there is now evidence of community spread and that an infected person can show no symptoms and still pass on the virus to others. Singapore had previously seen fewer than 10 new cases a day, but the infection rate has increased to more than 50 new cases daily in the last two weeks. The city-state with a population of about 5.7 million had reported 500 active cases and 6 deaths as of April 5, 2020.

The prime minister also announced the following additional measures that are “significantly stricter” than those are currently in place:

  • Effective April 7, most workplaces must close, except for essential services and key economic sectors. Essential services include food establishments, markets and supermarkets, clinics, hospitals, utilities, transport, and key banking services. Economic sectors that are strategic or form part of a global supply chain will remain open. Workers are asked to work from home as long as they can.
  • Effective April 8, schools and institutes of higher learning must move to full home-based learning. Singapore had just initiated one day of home-based learning beginning the week of March 30. Preschools and student care centers will also be closed, except to provide limited services for children whose parents must continue working and are unable to make alternative care arrangements.
  • Restrictions on movement and gatherings of people will be tightened. People must stay at home as much as possible and avoid socializing with others beyond their own household. Gatherings must be confined to the household. People are still allowed to buy food or take out from restaurants and exercise in neighborhood parks as long as they maintain a safe distance from others.

According to Singapore’s regulations on safe distancing, which came into effect on March 26, 2020, those who do not keep physical distancing of at least one meter (3.2 feet) are punishable by a fine of up to 10,000 Singapore dollars (about US$7,000) and/or up to six months’ imprisonment. The same penalties apply to those who fail to stay in their accommodations if given a “Stay-Home Notice” (SHN) under the new SHN regulations, which took effect on March 20, 2020.