TL;DR – Tourists do not get the $100 and wear a surgical mask only if you are sick.
Just when we thought Wednesday (29th Jan) would pass with no new cases, the media reported three new cases about an hour ago. So we now have a total of 10 confirmed cases of Wuhan virus.
All three cases are Chinese nationals who travelled from Wuhan.
What else are people talking about today?
Confusion about the $100/day allowance
Following the announcement of additional precautionary measures yesterday (28th Jan), where visitors who have been in China’s Hubei province over the last 14 days or have passports issued in Hubei will be barred from entering or transiting in Singapore from noon today (Jan 29).
There was also an announcement that the Government will provide some financial help to Singaporeans who have been served Quarantine Orders.
Unfortunately headline readers will be headline readers, or perhaps a small fraction of people were deliberating spreading falsehoods that the $100 per day allowance would also be paid to tourists.
Nope, not true.
Minister for National Development Lawrence Wong who co-chairs the multi-ministry task force has said that it is “regrettable that some people are circulating falsehoods” on the $100 quarantine allowance.
“We did it for Sars (severe acute respiratory syndrome) too. It’s given to Singapore-based employers to cover their employees under quarantine and to self-employed Singaporeans or permanent residents under quarantine. It’s not given to tourists who are quarantined. Our whole point is to help Singaporeans.”
In case you’re wondering, MOH has said the Government is footing the hospital bills for all suspected and confirmed cases since their illness is caused by an emerging disease.
Where are all the masks?
While Senior Minister of State Lam Pin Min has posted on his Facebook page yesterday that we have stockpiles for masks, and that there is sufficient supply of masks for Singaporeans, on the ground all we have been hearing are people complaining that masks are sold out everywhere.
A typical story goes like this: Singaporean Ah Tan goes to Clementi Mall where there is Guardian’s, Unity and Watsons.
Yeps, the story continues that Ah Tan would find masks sold out at three places.
What is also increasingly reported and shared is that hand sanitisers and even thermometers are out of stock at many places too.
So where are all the masks that the Government’s been telling us exist?
But, do we really need masks?
Ministry of Health (MOH) has a very useful FAQ section on its website, and here’s what it says on wearing masks.
Q: Will wearing a mask help to reduce the transmission of the virus? Should I wear a surgical mask or a N95 mask?
A: Masks are generally not needed for people who are well.
If you are unwell, it is advisable for you to wear a surgical mask as it will help reduce the spread of the virus and it is also more practical for general public to use as compared to an N95 mask. Surgical masks can help block large-particle droplets and splatter from reaching the wearer’s mouth and nose, and reduce exposure of the wearer’s saliva and respiratory secretions to others.
N95 masks, which are tighter fitting, are not recommended as they are designed in a way that would make it difficult for people to breathe in if they are worn properly.
The latest broadcast message on the Gov.sg Whatsapp channel this evening also said the same.
Wear a surgical mask only if you are sick. If you are well, you do not need to wear a mask.
According to this journalist who was on ground to cover Sars and also been in more than 30 outbreaks, she said,
Masks are useless when worn outdoors and may not be very helpful even indoors.
Most masks deteriorate after one or two wearings. Using the same mask day after day is worse than useless—it’s disgusting, as the contents of your mouth and nose eventually coat the inside of the mask with a smelly veneer that is attractive to bacteria.
I rarely wear a face mask in an epidemic, and I have been in more than 30 outbreaks. Instead, I stay away from crowds, and I keep my distance from individual people—a half meter, about 1.5 feet, is a good standard. If someone is coughing or sneezing, I ask them to put on a mask—to protect me from their potentially contaminated fluids. If they decline, I step a meter (about 3 feet) away from them, or I leave. Don’t shake hands or hug people—politely beg off, saying it’s better for both of you not to come in close contact during an epidemic.
Read more on the 10 simple precautions she has come up with to help us stay safe from the Wuhan virus.