COVID-19: Face shields allowed only under specific conditions from 2 June, masks remain mandatory

SINGAPORE — From Tuesday (2 June), the use of face shields in Singapore will only be allowed for specific groups of people or settings, such as children aged 12 and below and those who have certain health conditions, the Ministry of Health (MOH) said.

The announcement was shared during a virtual press conference helmed by the COVID-19 multi-ministry taskforce on Monday, a day before Singapore enters Phase 1 of post circuit breaker measures.

“With effect from 2 June, face shields will be treated differently from masks, and will be allowed only for specific exempt groups or settings,” the MOH said.

Currently, face shields are allowed to be worn, in place of masks, by the general population while outdoors. The wearing of masks was made mandatory in mid-April with certain exemptions in place, and those who do not comply can face a $300 fine for the first offence and possible jail time for subsequent offences.

When asked if the same penalty will apply for those wearing face shields in place of masks, Health Minister and taskforce co-chair Gan Kim Yong confirmed this. Director of medical service Kenneth Mak added that social distancing ambassadors have been instructed to exercise “flexibility” in enforcement.

“The aim really at the onset is to educate, encourage people to do the right thing and do the right behaviour. And as people learn about the importance of wearing masks as a default, we believe t that more and more people will be in fact, doing the right practice,” said Prof Mak.

Face shields vs masks

“COVID-19 is spread predominantly through droplets. The design of face shields typically leaves a gap between the face shield and the face. Masks that are worn closely and completely over the nose and mouth do not have such gaps,” added the ministry.

The usage of masks - which closely and completely cover the nose and mouth - will continue to be mandatory for those travelling outside of their residences, it said.

“With the re-opening of our economy and society, we can expect more activities and close contact amongst people, including on public transport. So masks will now be required as the default,” said the MOH.

Where the wearing of masks may not be practical in certain situations, face shields may be worn, it added.

These shields must be worn properly so that it covers the entire face, from the forehead to below the chin, wrapping around the sides of the face.

People allowed to wear shields include:

  • Children, aged 12 and below, who may have difficulty wearing and keeping face masks on for a prolonged period of time

  • Those with health conditions that may result in breathing or other medical difficulties when a mask is worn for a prolonged period of time

  • Those who are speaking to a group in a classroom or lecture-style setting, where they largely remain at the spot from which they are speaking, and are able to maintain a safe distance away from others

“We will continue to exercise flexibility in enforcement for groups that may have difficulties wearing a face mask or shield, including children with special needs and young children aged two and above. In particular, mask-wearing is not recommended for young children below the age of two for safety reasons.”

In certain settings, face shields may be worn on top of a mask to provide additional protection, the MOH added.

“For example, wearing a shield can help to protect one’s eyes from droplets that may contain virus particles, and can also prevent the mask from getting wet. It may also help to stop people from adjusting their masks or touching their faces.”

Those doing television broadcasts are currently exempted from wearing shields or masks. “We will continue with this exemption, provided such activities are done in a safe and controlled environment, e.g. safe distancing is observed vis-à-vis other persons, and safe management practices are followed throughout the recording or filming process,” the ministry said.

The MOH reiterated its advice for members of the public to stay at home and avoid going out where possible.

“As more activities and services gradually resume, we urge everyone to play their part by wearing masks, observing good personal hygiene, and adhering to safe distancing and safe management measures.”

To date, Singapore has 35,292 cases of COVID-19, including 23 related deaths. Over 60 per cent of cases have fully recovered.

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