Singapore— National Development Minister Lawrence Wong announced on Thursday said (Jan 30) that every household in Singapore is to receive four surgical face masks.
He said, “We are doing this to assure Singaporeans that every family will have access to masks if someone in your family really needs it.”
Mr Wong added that the masks should only be used when absolutely needed. “Do not open up the packet and start using them right away. Use it only if you’re unwell and have to go out to see the doctor,” he urged.
The announcement comes amidst daily updates on the spread of the Wuhan coronavirus. The growing tally of the number of people affected (over 7,000), as well as the death toll (170), have been cause for concern, and long lines of people waiting to buy surgical masks for added protection against the virus have been seen all over Singapore.
Starting this Saturday, February 1, people may get the masks at 654 Residents’ Committee (RC) centres and 89 Community Centres (CCs).
The government expects that all households will have collected their masks by February 9.
Channel NewsAsia (CNA) reports Chan Chun Sing, the country’s Minister for Trade and Industry as saying that in the last nine days five million masks were made available to retailers, but people have bought them at faster rates than anticipated.
While Mr Chan said, “We understand when people are fearful there is a tendency for them to panic buy or hoard,” he added that to not manage the private use of surgical masks would “jeopardise our entire healthcare system, not allowing us to take care of those who need it the most.”
Regarding the distribution of masks to Singaporean households, Mr Wong said that this would be a “one-time exercise”. The masks are from the country’s national stockpile and given directly to Singaporeans.
Mr Wong added that the first priority for the stockpile is given to front line healthcare workers. As for distribution, areas with a high concentration of residents that are vulnerable, Pioneer Generation residents and rental block residents, will be given first priority.
The masks are being packed by the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF), similar to 2013, when the SAF packed masks for distribution during the period of intense haze.
Mr Chan added that in cases wherein residents cannot claim the masks in person, these will be distributed to them by volunteers from the People’s Association. And if there is a need for additional masks, these will be assessed on a case-to-case basis.
From February 1 to 5, these masks will be distributed at RC centres within Housing and Development Board (HDB) estates. From February 6 onwards they’ll be distributed at Community Centres. The allowed time for claiming the masks is between 2 to 10pm on February 1 and then between 10am to 9pm on the days that follow.
In order to claim the masks, residents will need to show their NRIC. -/TISG