WP's Jamus Lim makes a case for S'pore to go maskless outdoors

Commenters were both for and against it.

Mandy How | September 21, 2021, 04:03 PM

Follow us on Telegram for the latest updates: https://t.me/mothershipsg

Singapore mandated mask-wearing on Apr. 14, 2020.

Almost one and a half years later, the country remains steadfast to the rule as the pandemic continues to linger.

Workers' Party Jamus Lim presented a different take on Sep. 21 in asking for mask-wearing to be eased outdoors.

Lim, who is the Member of Parliament (MP) for Sengkang GRC, listed three points in favour of his case.

1. Lower outdoor transmission rates

An increasing understanding of the Covid-19 virus has shown that the virus' transmission rates are "far lower" outdoors than indoors, Lim said.

While Lim acknowledges the more infectious nature of the Delta variant, he also argued that masks alone are "insufficient to fully inhibit delta’s spread," citing the market vegetable study.

A Straits Times (ST) headline had announced that touching vegetables at market could have led to Covid-19 spread, according to infectious disease experts. However, one should note that other factors, such as the improper wearing of masks and being non-vaccinated also contributed to the spread.

2. Stifling for people who work outdoors

Lim then brought up outdoor workers (e.g.cleaners and gardeners) who may not have the "excuse" of exercising to unmask.

"In an ideal world, folks would keep masks on all the time, of course, except perhaps when in the presence of those living in the same household. But in reality, keeping the mask on constantly is stifling, and all the more so in our hot and humid climate."

3. Mask fatigue

According to Lim, the stifling feeling might also lead to people ripping their masks off once indoors.

To illustrate his point, Lim referred to workers having the tendency to unmask in smaller meetings room and offices.

"But this is precisely the wrong way round. If we had to choose between indoor and outdoor masking, the former is clearly preferred, because risks of infection indoors are much higher," he added.

In a follow-up comment, Lim emphasised that masks are still an important tool in the fight against Covid-19, and that it should still be strictly enforced indoors.

Ultimately, Lim believes that although "excess caution" was warranted in the earlier part of the pandemic, Singapore should take a more "sustainable approach" to its public health policies, especially as we move towards the endemic stage.

Not all in agreement

Not all are in agreement with Lim, however.

While one commenter thanked him for speaking up, others felt that the MP had made erroneous assumptions in his argument.

Some also highlighted operational difficulties in properly demarcating what is "outdoors":

You can find his post here:

View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Jamus Lim (@jamuslim)

Current WHO guidance

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has updated the relevant Q&A on Dec. 2020:

"In areas where the virus is circulating, masks should be worn when you’re in crowded settings, where you can’t be at least 1 metre from others, and in rooms with poor or unknown ventilation. It’s not always easy to determine the quality of ventilation, which depends on the rate of air change, recirculation and outdoor fresh air.

So if you have any doubts, it’s safer to simply wear a mask."

Masks should also be worn for indoor public settings if one is unable to maintain a physical distance from others, WHO stated.

When outside, one should wear a mask if they are unable to maintain a physical distance from others. Some examples WHO listed include busy markets, crowded streets and bus stops.

Top image via Jamus Lim's Instagram page, Mandy How