Face Shields Cannot Be Worn In Place Of Face Masks, Allowed Only for Certain Groups Like Kids Aged 12 And Under Based On Revised Policy...
“Face masks will be the default situation,” said MOH in its revised guidance on wearing face shields for COVID-19 protection.
As Singapore enters Phase 1 of its reopening where many services will resume, mask-wearing will still be the “default situation” in reducing the risks of COVID-19 transmission—and face shields cannot be a replacement.
Speaking at a press conference on 1 June, MOH’s director of medical services, Dr Kenneth Mak said that MOH have reviewed the use of face masks and face shields as protection from COVID-19, apart from the safe distancing measures put in place thus far.
Face shields Not a Replacement
“We have made a decision that we would no longer treat face shields the same as masks,” said Dr Mak.
According to him, face shields are unable to provide the necessary facial protection “in the majority of settings” to prevent oneself from the possible risk of infection.
Unlike a face mask which is typically worn to cover the entire face from forehead to below the chin, wrapping around sides of the face, a face shield is exposed at the bottom and provides no protection to below the chin.
In the case of a person being asymptomatic (or showing no symptoms) of the infection, he or she could potentially expose others to the infection, said Dr Mak.
However, the Ministry understands that there are certain circumstances whereby mask-wearing “may not be practical”, and states that face shields may be worn instead.
Mask-wearing Compulsory for All, Some Groups Exempted
According to Dr Mak, there are three groups of people who are exempted from mask-wearing and could choose to wear a face shield instead. They include:
- Children aged 12 years and below who face difficulty wearing masks (or keeping masks on for prolonged periods of time)
- Those with health conditions whereby mask-wearing may result in breathing or other medical difficulties
- Those required to speak to a group in a classroom/lecture style setting – while being able to maintain a safe distance from the group, remaining at the same spot
There are also groups identified who can omit facial protection entirely:
- Television broadcasters on duty
- Only allowed when safe distancing is observed and safe management practices are followed throughout the recording or filming process
- Children below age 2
As per existing mask-wearing guidelines, it is not recommended for young children below 2 years of age to wear masks due to “safety reasons”. MOH said they recognise this and will continue adhering to the exemptions.
“We will exercise some flexibility in how we enforce these policies for groups who have these difficulties in wearing a face masks or shield,” said Dr Mak.
Additional Protection with Face Shield
Some could seek additional protection by layering on both a face mask and face shield in preventing against COVID-19.
And the Ministry recognises the “added benefit” in doing so.
According to Dr Mak, using a face shield in addition to a face mask protects the eyes from droplets that may contain virus particles as well as prevent masks from getting wet due to external settings.
With some, if not many of us having a tendency to touch our faces while a mask is on, wearing a face shield atop a mask could act as deterrence from touching our faces, which could further contaminate our hands and faces.
Emphasises Social Responsibility
While many of us might be looking forward to head outdoors and resume life as per normal, it is still not advisable yet.
Dr Mak urge the general public in remaining indoors unless necessary.
If necessary to head outdoors, masks have to be worn alongside with adhering to preventive measures such as safe distancing, observing good hand hygiene and among others to help reduce the risks of COVID-19 transmission.
After all, Singapore is just 1 day into post-circuit breaker. And we definitely do not want to risk triggering infections—as seen from previous experiences locally and overseas after relaxing their measures.
This article is updated as of 2 June 2020.
Lead image via Facebook Screengrab/Desmond Lee