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mask
Photograph: Shutterstock

Everything you need to know about face masks in Singapore

Stop the spread and cover up if you have to run to the shops or go out of the house

By Delfina Utomo
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To mask or not to mask? Until recently, that was the question many people had about covering up their faces in public. But in light of people possibly spreading germs even without showing signs of illness, the government now recommends that we wear masks to keep our droplets to ourselves.

But which mask should we be using? How do I wear one properly? And where can I purchase them? Are they even in stock? We answer all your burning questions. 

RECOMMENDED: #Savefnbsg: Restaurants in Singapore with delivery and takeaway options and donate your extra masks to front-line workers at these drop-off points

What mask should I be using?

masks
masks
Photograph: Unsplash/Victor He

Surgical masks

According to the Health Sciences Authorities, a surgical mask prevents large particles (expelled by you) from reaching the environment by creating a physical barrier. It is also not as tight-fitting as an N95 mask and its bacterial filtration efficiency is above 95 percent. When purchasing surgical masks, make sure that it should have three layers that are not too thin. The outer layer should also be water repellent.

N95 respirator

The N95 respirator offers the best protection and reduces your exposure to small airborne particles or contaminants, but it is still not foolproof. It is also very scarce and only select stores online have ready stock. If you do see it available, it can be pricey.

Cloth masks

While cloth masks don't offer filtration efficiency, it stops your germs from being released to the environment. So be responsible and mask up!

Ultra masks

These new cloth masks are made out of organic cotton and plant extracts – and it also has antibacterial properties. The mask's anti-bacterial technology can kill 99 percent of the common bacteria Staphylococcus aureus, frequently found on skin and respiratory tract. The government is currently giving out these masks for free from now till June 14. Read more on this special mask here.

How do I wear a mask properly?

surgical masks
Photograph: Unsplash/Engin Akyurt

Surgical and cloth face masks

1. Wash your hands before putting on your masks.

2. Put on the mask to cover your nose and mouth, then stretch it gently over your chin.

3. For surgical masks, press the thin metal wire along the upper edge gently to fit against the bridge of your nose so that the mask sits nicely on your face.

Tips: Do not remove the mask when you're coughing or sneezing. Reduce the amount of talking when using a mask. For cloth masks, do change the filter (you can use a paper towel) every time you go out. For surgical masks, remember to dispose of them properly after each use. 

N95 mask
Photo: Shutterstock

N95 respirators

1. Wash your hands with soap and water before putting on the respirator. 

2. Make sure the respirator you select fits your face. An ideal one would be able to cover your nose, mouth and chin.

3. After fitting it over your nose, mouth and chin, fit the flexible nose piece over nose bridge.

4. Secure the respirator on head with ties and/or elastic band and adjust to fit.

5. Try a fit check by inhaling and exhaling. During inhalation, the respirator should collapse. During exhalation, check for leakage around face. 

Tips: When removing, touch only the straps and not the surface of the respirator. Try not to speak too much when using a respirator. 

Where can I buy masks in Singapore?

mask
Photograph: Shutterstock

Pharmacies

Local pharmacies like Unity, Watsons and Guardian sell a variety of masks but what's in stock depends on the outlet. If you're lucky, you can find masks in-store – when we called to check we were told "if have then have, if don't have means don't have" so it's best if you check in regularly when you're out for essentials.

The good thing about getting your masks from the pharmacies is that they're priced competitively from $10 (or less) for a box of 10. You can also shop online at Watsons and Guardian

Reusable face masks

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cloth masks
Photograph: CYC

Make them yourself

If you have some time on your hands, try your hand at making your own cloth mask. Heritage tailors CYC have released a step-by-step sewing guide to create reusable cloth masks. If you have a sewing machine at home, you can try it out for yourself. You can also buy Egyptian cloth masks from CYC – it comes in plenty of colours and has a filter insert. There are also kid sizes available. 

masks
Photograph: Facebook/Masks Sewn With Love

Join in the movement

Wearing masks when heading out (only for essential things!) is important to help slow the spread and some Singaporeans have started making their own masks.

The DIY spirit is strong with the Masks Sewn With Love initiative. Started by sewing studio founder Jacquelene Pang and some volunteers, the group has made more than 300 masks for children in vulnerable families. Soon after putting up an online tutorial video showing people how to sew a mask from scratch, many picked up on this and started contributing to the movement – as well as making colourful masks for their family and friends. 

The ultimate goal is to complete 50,000 masks in the next few weeks to be distributed to groups and communities who need them. If you have some time on your hands, why not chip in and do some good?

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face mask
Photo: People's Association

Collect your free mask

News City Life

From 26 May to 14 June, Singapore residents with a valid identification card can collect one reusable mask each from designated community centres (CC), resident committee (RC) centres or at the individual's convenience from 24-hour vending machines located in all CCs. The new cloth masks filter out bacteria, unlike the ones distributed before. Learn how to collect your free mask here

Surgical masks

Disposable face masks
Photo: De an Sun/Unsplash

Here are some online shops with a ready stock of surgical masks:

Axtro Sports
- $29/50 pieces
- Free delivery for seven boxes and more

Lazada

Jinfiltration
- From $39.90/50 pieces
- Two-day quick delivery

Creamo
- From $32.90/50 pieces
- Shop includes surgical masks in more quantities and other types of masks too including masks for kids
- Free delivery

Ergoworks
- $39.90/50 pieces

Selffix DIY
- $35/50 pieces

Shopee

S Mart
- From $39.90/50 pieces
- Next day delivery

Eload.SG
- From $44.90/50 pieces
- Same day delivery for orders before 8am on weekdays

N95 respirators

N95 mask
Photograph: Unsplash/visuals

Here some online shops with a ready stock of N95 masks:

Lazada

EKSK Mall
- From $39.50/five pieces
- Shop different quantities from the store

Shopee

Yxiang613
- $67.20/ten pieces
- 1-2 days delivery

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