Singapore ― “… it seems like masks alone are insufficient to fully inhibit delta’s spread, as shown by our now-infamous market vegetable study. In my view, this makes a strong behavioral case for relaxing the mask mandate outdoors”, said Workers’ Party MP Jamus Lim.
In a Facebook post on Tuesday (Sept 21), the Member of Parliament for Sengkang said that mask-wearing has been a controversial public policy. “We started with a position that masks were unnecessary, then belatedly went on a strict mask mandate”, he wrote.
He explained that “Excess caution was probably warranted in the earlier part of the COVID-19 pandemic, given our state of knowledge at the time. But two years on, our understanding of the disease has evolved significantly.
One development has been the far lower transmission rates of COVID-19 outdoors, as opposed to indoors.”
Associate Professor Lim wrote that while there is some emerging evidence to show that outdoor transmission of Covid-19 is possible with the Delta variant, it seems like masks alone are insufficient to prevent its spread.
“In my view, this makes a strong behavioral case for relaxing the mask mandate outdoors”, he wrote.
Assoc Prof Lim said that “keeping the mask on constantly is stifling… especially so for those who work outdoors (like cleaners and gardeners), who don’t have the “exercising” excuse to unmask.
Not only that, it often leads to people ripping their masks off once indoors, to obtain some relief. I’m sure we all know of coworkers who unmask, especially in smaller meeting rooms and offices”.
Since the risk of Covid-19 infections spreading indoors is much higher than outdoors, Assoc Prof Lim said that it is preferred that masks are worn indoors. “We aren’t machines, and public health policy should ultimately be sustainable”, he wrote.
Clarifying his stance, Assoc Prof Lim added: “Make no mistake: masks are an important tool in our fight against COVID-19, and evidence has shown—the latest being a convincing randomized controlled trial of mask usage in Bangladesh (https://bit.ly/3tuAG8M)—that they work in containing spread.
But my view is that we should move toward relaxing our outdoor masking rules (except perhaps where there is still close interpersonal contact, like in markets and other crowded spaces), but insist on strict adherence indoors”.
Along with his post, he shared a photo of himself without a mask outside and said: “I recently posed a Parliamentary Question along these lines. The response was that masking at all times remains necessary, and will be one of the last stipulations to go. Hopefully we will keep revisiting our stances, informed by the latest science”.