Experts stress importance of good mask, wearing it correctly

With the emergence of more infectious coronavirus variants, coupled with the rise in the number of Covid-19 cases in Singapore, experts are warning of the possibility of a spike in infections ahead.

This underlines the importance of proper mask wearing, especially when entering crowded places, and ensuring that one's mask offers good protection against possible infection, they said.

Infectious diseases expert Leong Hoe Nam said there is a "real risk" of transmission rates going up during the Chinese New Year period because of the increased potential for socialising, along with the recent rise in imported cases.

"We must remember that the polymerase chain reaction test is only 93 per cent sensitive, which means that for every 40 positive imported cases, there will be one or two cases that we miss out on, which may end up seeping into the community," he said.

This may result in an increase in community cases and the next level of defence would be the wearing of masks, making it of paramount importance to choose an effective one, he added.

For a mask to be effective, it should have three layers, with a non-woven fabric in the middle to absorb particles and a water repellent outer layer, said Dr Teo Tee Hui, council member at The Institution of Engineers, Singapore.

Examples of these include surgical masks and the antimicrobial 3D masks given out by Temasek Foundation in the latest distribution drive, which began on Nov 30.


Professor Teo Yik Ying, dean of the Saw Swee Hock School of Public Health at the National University of Singapore (NUS), said there is "no evidence" suggesting that surgical masks or N95 masks are necessary for protection against new variants of the virus, such as the N501 strain identified in South Africa and the B117 strain in Britain.

There were three linked cases of the latter in the community here recently.

Dr Leong said it is important to select a mask that fits well, so that little unfiltered air leaks in.

A good way to check would be to breathe through the mask and ensure that air is not flowing in from either side or the top and bottom of the mask, he added.