If you can’t wait for the day you can step into your air-conditioned office without a mask, you might want to put that excitement (and your plans to get a new lipstick shade for work) on hold for a while.
According to the Ministry of Health (MOH), there are currently “no plans” to relax the current COVID-19 restrictions for the time being.
This will include masks being compulsory in indoor settings, even though masks have been optional outdoors since March this year.
And here’s why.
Risks Still Present Despite Drop in Cases
Just yesterday (11 August), MOH responded to queries regarding whether or not rules pertaining to mask-wearing indoors will be changed in the near future.
Since the Circuit Breaker period in April 2020, it has been compulsory to wear masks in public.
To those enquiries, MOH replied that there will be no changes to the current Safe Management Measures (SMMs) in Singapore despite a decrease in the number of infections lately due to the risks that are still present in the coommunity.
“Cases are falling but remain high and pose risks. The Ministry of Health will continue to calibrate measures depending on the situation,” an MOH spokesperson explained.
Current COVID-19 Situation in Singapore
Just yesterday, Singapore recorded 7,776 new COVID-19 cases that were reported, a decrease from the 16,870 cases on 13 July last month.
The spike in cases was mostly caused by the new BA.4 and BA.5 Omicron variants, which are more transmissible.
In early July, Health Minister Ong Ye Kung also shared that Singapore was currently “near the peak, if not at the peak” of the current wave.
Earlier this month on 1 August, he announced that the number of COVID-19 cases has fallen, and will most likely fall even more in the days to come.
As for the SMMs in Singapore, they have been greatly relaxed in recent months, but the requirements for certain events have not been removed yet.
For example, bars and nightlife establishments that include dancing activities can only accept patrons who are fully vaccinated.
The same rule also applies to events that have over 500 participants, including live performances and religious worship sessions.
Experts’ Opinions: Masks Indoors May Not Be Necessary
However, despite MOH’s plans to keep indoor mask-wearing compulsory for now, several health experts in Singapore have taken a different perspective on this issue.
For instance, Associate Professor Alex Cook, vice-dean of research at the National University of Singapore’s (NUS) Saw Swee Hock School of Public Health, suggested that there might be little use to try and prevent the spread of the COVID-19 virus.
“With over 90 per cent of the population vaccinated and over half the population infected, there is little reason to contain the virus. There is no need to continue mandatory mask-wearing,” he mentioned.
His colleague at the school, Associate Professor Natasha Howard, Prof Cook’s colleague, also echoed similar sentiments.
According to her, there are “minimal” benefits even if we continue to wear masks indoors.
However, Prof Cook also noted that masks have been effective in lowering the risk of infectious but asymptomatic COVID-19 patients spreading the disease to others.
He then added that individuals who have contracted COVID-19 should still wear masks when they interact with others.
Mask-Wearing Mandates in Other Countries
With an increase in COVID-19 cases in many countries around the world, some governments have begun re-introducing stricter COVID-19 rules regarding mask-wearing.
In Victoria, an Australian state, local authorities mentioned on Tuesday (9 August) that they will be distributing free N95 masks in the coming weeks since the state has been experiencing an Omicron wave.
Currently, mask-wearing is compulsory on public transport, in hospitals as well as in aged care facilities in Victoria. It is also recommended in other indoor areas.
As for New Delhi, India’s capital, authorities announced yesterday (11 August) that mask-wearing will be mandatory in all public spaces, including outdoor areas, due to an increase in COVID-19 cases over the past few weeks.
You can watch this video to understand how masks help to stop transmission:
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