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Asia Minute: Singapore Makes Masks Mandatory

AP Photo/Ee Ming Toh
In this March 14, 2020, photo, a couple wearing face masks walk past the Merlion statue in Singapore.

Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell has ordered wider use of facemasks in public, starting next Monday. It’s part of the efforts to fight the spread of the novel coronavirus, and it broadens his earlier request that people wear masks when they go out. This week in Singapore, authorities made that behavior mandatory.

If you wander outside in Singapore without a facemask, it could cost you a little more than 200 U.S. dollars.

And that’s for a first offense.

Singapore’s government made that announcement Tuesday, with immediate effect.

It was only about a week and a half ago that Singapore’s government stopped discouraging people from wearing facemasks. At that time, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong cited evidence “that an infected person can show no symptoms, and yet still pass on the virus to others.” The government immediately took steps to provide each Singapore resident with a reusable mask.

There are only a couple of exemptions to the new mandatory use of masks outside — children under the age of two don’t need one, nor do those “engaging in strenuous exercise” – although runners are advised to put them back on when they resume a normal pace.

The new rules will be in place at least until May 4th, along with a series of other restrictions the government is calling “circuit breakers” to break a new cycle of COVID-19 cases.

Another adjustment was announced Tuesday, the list of workers in Singapore who are considered “essential” is getting a fresh look — just over a week after it was last trimmed.

A government minister says about 20% of the workforce qualify as essential workers — including those cutting hair and serving coffee.

Bill Dorman has been the news director at Hawaiʻi Public Radio since 2011.
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