Wearing masks a 'necessary discomfort', say Singaporeans
Many agree it's the responsible thing to do, but some find it difficult in hot weather
Most Singaporeans left home yesterday with half their faces covered as the nation starts donning masks, a mandatory move in its fight to curb the spread of the coronavirus.
Those who fail to do so will be fined from today: $300 for the first offence and $1,000 for the second offence.
Egregious cases will face prosecution in court.
Though many interviewed said they understood the need for a mask when out and about, some said they found it difficult to breathe after 30 minutes.
Housewife Clara Chan said she wore one while walking to a nearby supermarket but had to remove it after 10 minutes.
"I needed to breathe and felt I would have fainted otherwise. Singapore's hot weather makes it very difficult to wear a mask for long," said the 57-year-old.
Psychotherapist Amanda Ang, 32, described it as a necessary discomfort.
"It is not very easy to breathe when wearing one. Also, it gets wet from perspiration and (that) makes things even more uncomfortable."
But the discomfort may have its benefits, she added with a laugh.
"Maybe because they are so uncomfortable, more people will stay at home now."
The wearing of masks outside of the home is now a must for all, except for children younger than two years old.
Masks are also not required for those doing strenuous exercise such as running or jogging.
The Health Ministry said it will be flexible in enforcing the rule on those who may have difficulties wearing a mask, such as children with special needs.
Financial adviser Vincent Kumar, 36, found it difficult to wear a mask initially but stuck with it as "it is the responsible thing to do".
"I'm very wary of the virus so I've been wearing a mask for about a month. It isn't the most comfortable thing, but we must all play our part," he said.
Civil servant Ginny Goh, 45, said her family has been doing it for the last few weeks.
Her three teenage children found them inconvenient at the beginning but are now used to it.
She added: "I'm not surprised at the fines for not wearing a mask, as not everyone has cooperated in complying with the safe distancing measures.
"Hopefully, this will make everyone fall in line."
Enforcement of the social distancing measure has intensified in the past week.
Nearly 3,000 enforcement officers and ambassadors from more than 30 agencies have been deployed daily to public spaces in Housing Board estates, to ensure people keep a safe distance from one another.
As of Tuesday, more than 500 fines have been issued to individuals for flouting the rules.
Some of these were for eating at hawker centres instead of buying the food and taking it home.
Earlier this week, the Municipal Services Office introduced a safe distancing feedback category on its OneService app that allows people to report on municipal matters.
Daily, about 700 reports are received, said Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Grace Fu in a Facebook post on Tuesday.
Should strenuous exercise exempt you from wearing a mask?
A debate has erupted over one of the latest circuit breaker measures that exempts those engaging in strenuous exercise from having to wear a mask while outdoors.
Some people have questioned whether such a move is logical, given that those who exercise vigorously typically breathe hard.
This means they are exhaling more air droplets, and studies suggest that contact with infected air droplets is one way in which the coronavirus is transmitted.
But experts interviewed yesterday understood its rationale, saying it may not be safe to exert oneself while wearing a mask.
Dr Leong Hoe Nam, an infectious diseases expert who practises at Mount Elizabeth Novena Hospital, said exercising with a mask could jeopardise one's health.
He said: "When you put on a mask, there is resistance in breathing, making the exercise more strenuous and it can trigger a heart attack."
Dr Piotr Chlebicki, an infectious diseases specialist at Mount Alvernia Hospital, also told The Straits Times there is a low chance of transmission of the coronavirus because people tend to jog and run outdoors, in open areas.
Student Eric K, 18, who runs six times a week at Sungei Jurong, tried exercising while donning a reusable cotton mask once, but found it "extremely suffocating".
He had to remove it to continue his workout.
Everyone in Singapore is required to wear a mask when they are outside their home now. The move came into effect yesterday.
But those engaging in "strenuous exercise" - defined as jogging or running but not walking - and children under the age of two are exempted.
However, one is required to don a mask before and after a workout session, to minimise the risk of transmission.
Although Dr Chlebicki sees no issue with people exercising as there is a low chance of them getting the virus if they run alone, he appealed to runners to be responsible.
He said: "It is a generous exception, but I hope people have some personal responsibility and common sense not to overuse the exception."
Experts suggested finding less crowded places to work out and going out early in the morning or late at night to avoid people.
ADDITIONAL REPORTING: NEO YEE PUNG & ARVINASH RAVINDRAN