Improved reusable face masks will be distributed to residents of Singapore towards the end of this month, Trade and Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing said in a virtual interview on Wednesday (May 6).

The new mask is able to filter out bacteria, an upgrade from the masks given out before the circuit breaker began early last month. The masks will be distributed at community centres and residents’ committee centres. People will also be able to get them from vending machines after working hours.

Mr Chan said more details about the mask distribution will be provided during the month, according to on Friday (May 8).

He explained that distributing reusable masks again had been intended by the Government from the beginning. The first round of masks had been able to prevent the spread of disease as they provide a barrier for saliva and droplets, according to tests done by the A*Star research agency.

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And this new round of masks have improved in quality and capabilities. Mr Chan said that users will be able to breathe better in them and may, therefore, wear them for a longer period. However, he added a reminder that there are no masks that are 100 per cent foolproof.

The minister did not disclose the material that the new masks are made of, as this is proprietary information. He said: “When this thing works, there will be demand for it and we want to make sure our supply lines are not disrupted.”

In a Facebook post later that day, Mr Chan said that there had been much interest in Singapore’s mask-manufacturing capabilities from the start of the Covid-19 outbreak, especially concerning local mask manufacturing capabilities for the needs of the public.

He said earlier plans and arrangements to partner with companies in other countries fell through, leading to the decision to go for local manufacturing.

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Mr Chan praised “the hard work and determination of ST Engineering” for its “critical role in this process” of producing local surgical masks, which the country was able to do so in February.

He added: “Together with our partners, we continued with our local N95 masks production. We kept our promise and fulfilled our responsibilities to the global supply chains. It is this type of trust that we must engender for others to continue to put their investments and production capacities here.”

At this time as well, realising that the pandemic may last for a prolonged period, the Government decided to also activate “our economic agencies and local manufacturers to begin producing and stockpiling reusable cloth masks” which were distributed at the beginning of April “when the medical evidence became clearer than that mask-wearing would help minimise the transmission of the virus”.

And once the improved masks have reached enough stock, these will be distributed in cooperation with People’s Association and Temasek Foundation to all Singapore residents “towards the end of the circuit breaker period”.

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Mr Chan ended his post with an expression of gratitude for the whole country: “The journey over the last few months has truly been a Whole-of-Nation effort. I am extremely thankful to all the companies and individuals who have gone above and beyond the call of duty to secure essential supplies for Singapore. I applaud the tenacity and resilience of our people who have been an integral part of this process.” /TISG

Read also: The new normal: Masks may be required even after circuit breaker measures end

The new normal: Masks may be required even after circuit breaker measures end