Singapore—The country’s Minister for the Environment and Water Resources, Masagos Zulkifli, called it “a good sign” that only 50 people were found out and about in Singapore without face masks on Day 10 of the 28-day circuit break period on Thursday (Apr 16).
The Minister said that he hoped, however, that on Day 11 (Friday), everyone would be wearing masks. In a turnaround from earlier official advisories saying that hand washing is more important than wearing masks in the fight to not get infected with the coronavirus and that masks should be reserved for the front-line workers who needed them most, Mr Masagos wrote, “wearing masks and maintaining a safe distance from others when we’re out, this is critical to effectively containing COVID-19. Every lapse weakens our collective defence against the virus.”
National Development Minister Lawrence Wong announced that masks are now mandatory for individuals out in public in Singapore earlier this week. The only exceptions to this new rule are children under the age of two and individuals doing strenuous exercises. Those who do not comply will be slapped with a S$300 fine, Mr Wong said.
But Mr Masagos warned against complacency at this point, with the country’s Covid-19 cases still on the rise. Singapore now has 4,427 cases, with a new daily high reported by the Ministry of Health on Thursday, as 728 infections were added to the country’s total.
The Minister wrote that people are still eating at hawker centers and crowds are still forming in popular markets. There are others, he added, who still gather together in parks and public spaces. He underlined that now is not the time to relax. “When things look like they’re getting better, is when we must not let our guard down. Our resolve to complete the circuit breaker with seriousness, to the end, is critical.”
On Thursday, around 150 individuals were slapped with fines for breaching safe distancing measures, Mr Masagos said, and then added a warning that other government officials have issued, including Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and Health Minister Gan Kim Yong. Mr Masagos said that if the current circuit breaker rules are not followed strictly, the 28 days set for them would not be enough to break the chain of transmissions and therefore would need to be extended.
The straitstimes.com listed circuit breaker breakers as one of the five “weak links” in Singapore’s fight against the Covid-19 pandemic. The other four are migrant workers’ dormitories, homes for the elderly, childcare centers and preschools, and offices or workplaces.
The danger of people flouting the circuit breaker rules is that these could become such “super-spreader” events that cause a high number of people to get infected, in a manner difficult to control and that could even possibly overwhelm the country’s health care system.
People who are symptomatic or have a very mild form of Covid-19 and are unaware that they are positive for the infection, could end up spreading it unknowingly, especially if they refuse to wear masks.
Singapore has 300 enforcement officers and SG Clean and safe distancing ambassadors who go out daily to make sure that the circuit breaker rules are followed. There have been more than 1,000 fines and 6,200 warnings issued since the circuit breaker took effect on April 7.—/TISG
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