COVID-19: It's now mandatory to wear a face mask while outdoors – Lawrence Wong

SINGAPORE — It will now be mandatory for all people to wear a face mask while outdoors with certain exemptions, said Lawrence Wong, the co-chair of the multi-ministry taskforce on COVID-19, on Tuesday (14 April).

“There will be some exceptions, or. exemptions to this rule. For example, for very young children – those below the age of 2 – the medical experts recommend not to wear masks because of child safety; so that group will be exempted,” said the National Development Minister at a virtual press conference.

“For those who are engaging in strenuous exercise like running or jogging, then you can remove the mask when you are engaging in strenuous exercise but after that you have to put the mask on.”

He noted that the latest ruling will be enforced like all the other safe distancing and circuit breaker measures that have been put in place. Breaches of safe distancing measures currently carry the penalty of a $300 fine for first-time offenders while repeat offenders face possible jail terms.

Wong also disclaimed that the new ruling on masks should not be used as an excuse to go out more. “Please do not use this mask wearing requirement now to say, ‘Okay, I can go out. I buy a mask and it's okay to go out’,” he said.

In a media release on Tuesday, the Ministry of Health (MOH) reiterated that the public is still advised to stay home and avoid going out.

“However, for those who need to go out for work or to purchase necessities, it is difficult to avoid contact completely, including with infected persons who may not show any symptoms. The wearing of masks is therefore an important precaution we can all take,” the MOH said.

Tightening list of workplaces

Separately, Wong also noted that the authorities would be further refining their list of businesses that are allowed to stay open during the month-long circuit breaker period from 7 April to 4 May.

Currently, about 20 per cent of the Singapore workforce continue to work, with those involved in essential services – such as restaurants, food delivery, financial services and telecommunications – being allowed to stay open.

He noted that while Singapore is “not doing badly” in terms of reducing the number of people who need to go out to work every day, the government is looking to reduce this further and will be going through the current list of businesses “step by step, to see which ones can be cut”.

“So having cleared the appeals, we will now proceed to look at the list of companies that are still working and classified as essential services, and we will tighten this list further, with the objective of reducing (the number of) people who still need to work (and) so that more can stay at home,” said Wong.

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