9th February 2023 – (Singapore) The wearing of masks on public transport as well as some healthcare and residential care settings will no longer be mandatory from Monday (13th Feb), when Singapore also steps down its disease alert to the lowest level since the COVID-19 pandemic started.
The Ministry of Health (MOH) said on Thursday that it will however retain the practice of mask-wearing for visitors, staff and patients in settings where there is interaction with patients as well as in indoor patient-facing areas.
These include hospital wards, emergency departments, consultation rooms and waiting areas, pharmacies, clinics and nursing homes.
This will be an MOH requirement rather than mandated under COVID-19 regulations, to better protect patients and healthcare workers from infectious diseases in general, the ministry said in a press release.
Should someone be in a hospital area not related to the “delivery of care” – such as a cafeteria or car park – mask-wearing is not mandatory, MOH’s director of medical services Kenneth Mak clarified at a COVID-19 multi-ministry task force (MTF) press conference on Thursday.
“Hospitals will look at their operational requirements, the setting and see whether or not there are opportunities to lighten up and minimise that burden of mask wearing in those settings,” he added.
“So it is a more refined policy position, but the base principle of requiring mask-wearing in care areas still remains.”
MOH said it would still encourage members of the public, especially the elderly and immunocompromised, to wear masks in crowded places or when meeting vulnerable people.
Those with symptoms of COVID-19 or other respiratory infections are also strongly advised to wear a mask when leaving their homes, said the ministry.
Since April last year, Singapore has also maintained a Yellow status – the second lowest tier – under its Disease Outbreak Response System Condition (DORSCON) framework.
From Monday, it will move down to code Green – putting COVID-19 in the same category as the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) and the H7N9 bird flu strain.
MOH said in its press release that this was due to the mild nature of the disease especially among vaccinated individuals, and the minimal disruption posed to healthcare capacity and daily lives.
It was three years ago when Singapore first raised its DORSCON level to Orange in February 2020 and implemented mask-wearing requirements in April 2020.