The coronavirus has been keeping Singaporeans on their toes, with masks and hand sanitisers being swept off shelves.
Everyday staples such as rice, noodles and toilet rolls weren’t spared too after people began frantically stockpiling once Singapore went into Dorscon (Disease Outbreak Response System Condition) Orange mode.
“Should we be panicking?”, and “Is it really not necessary to wear a mask if we’re not ill?”, are just some questions we have on our minds.
In a recent Facebook live-streaming event organised by the Singapore Press Holdings’ Chinese Media Group on Feb 9, celebrities, singers and guest speakers were invited to the show to “show appreciation to frontline workers of the novel coronavirus outbreak and to support relief efforts”.
Dr Leong Hoe Nam, an Infectious Diseases Physician at Mount Elizabeth Novena Hospital, was brought in to answer burning questions about the coronavirus posed by celebrities and the public.
SICK, ELDERLY AND OBESE TO WEAR MASK
Local film director Jack Neo’s first question is a question many have about masks: “Should we or should we not wear a mask?
He said: “The government says only to wear when you’re sick, but what if someone else is sick and transmits the virus to me?”
Dr Leong emphasised that if you’re sick, you’ll need to wear a mask. He replied in Mandarin: “The second group of people who will require mask are those over the age of 65, and those who are obese with a Body mass index (BMI) value of over 30, because they are considered to be high-risk individuals.
“For healthy people, if you have extra masks and would like to wear it in public, go ahead. Honestly, the virus can be transmitted to you anytime, but the chances of that happening aren’t high”, he added.
HOW TO PREVENT TRANSMISSION ON PLANES
Former Singaporean actress and host Sharon Au’s question will resonate with the frequent flyers: “Should I wipe down my entire seat?”
Like her, if you have to travel to another city and require to be on the plane for long hours, Dr Leong shared the precautionary steps to keep yourself safe.
“Transmissions could happen through two ways: through breathing in the virus, and through coming in contact with the virus on surfaces.
“So wear a mask, and use alcohol wipes to wipe down the table and armrest. Then, throw away the wipes in a bag to prevent germs from spreading.”
About eating on the plane, Dr Leong suggested to “eat quickly”, wash or sanitise your hands before and after your meal, then put on your mask again.
“The spread can only happen from three rows in front and behind your seat”, so unless an infected person is seated in close proximity, there’s no cause for alarm.
SITTING IN TAXI AND PRIVATE HIRE CARS
I’m a frequent user of private hire cars and get a little paranoid when drivers who are sick not taking precautionary measures during this virus outbreak — I even had a driver pulling down his mask to cough, thinking we’ll both be safe since I have a mask on.
If you don’t want to come off as rude, Dr Leong has a tip: “Ask if you can wind down the windows for air ventilation. This way you’re helping the driver to save petrol and it also gives you a sense of security that the virus will not spread”.
HOW TO WEAR AND DISPOSE OF MASKS THE CORRECT WAY
Even with a mask, you may be doing yourself more harm than good if it’s not handled correctly, and the chances of contaminating the mask and spreading the virus may be higher.
Dr Leong warned against pulling down the mask to the chin, as “the mask will carry dirt or germs from your chin back to your nose or mouth”.
In a mask-wearing demonstration, Dr Leong once again emphasised the importance of washing your hands before and after wearing a mask. The mask should cover your nose and chin area. He highlighted that some people are only covering their mouth with the mask, which defeats the purpose.
“Place it in a resealable bag if you are going to wear it again. You can add some desiccant gel in the bag to keep it dry and reduce the chances of germs growing on the mask”.
Dr Leong also shared the responsible method of disposing of your mask. Wash or sanitise your hands again, then remove the mask carefully without touching the inner surface. Fold it inwards several times, tie it with the elastic straps, before wrapping it up in tissue paper and throwing it away.
CAN A MASK BE WORN ONLY FOR 8 HOURS?
Healthhub says “masks can only be worn for a maximum of eight hours and it is best to change them regularly so they can remain effective”.
But Dr Leong surprised the hosts of the show and Sharon Au when he said, “If you only use the mask for six hours it’s too wasteful!
“If the mask is dry and not torn, you can wear it for six to 12 hours, or more. I’ve used the same mask over a day or two, sometimes even the first half of the third day”.
He reminded the audience that reusing the mask means saving one more mask for someone who is in need of it.
In a separate YouTube video posted by Gov.sg on Feb 10, Dr Leong also dispelled common misconceptions and fears about the coronavirus.
These questions include:
CAN I CATCH THE VIRUS FROM MY ONLINE PACKAGES?
“When the packages go through transport, even from China, or from Wuhan itself, through to Singapore, the transportation, the long process and exposure to the sun would have decimated the virus.”
SHOULD I BE WORRIED IF I LIVE CLOSE TO A QUARANTINE SITE?
“No, I would not be particularly worried. Remember, the virus can only spread by droplets. Even if I am living next to a quarantine area, the virus does not go into the air, you cannot breathe it in.”
SHOULD I AVOID PLACES WHERE THERE HAVE BEEN SUSPECTED OR CONFIRMED 2019-NCOV (CORONAVIRUS) CASE?
“Ironically, those places would have been cleaned thoroughly and will be one of the cleanest spots in Singapore. I would trust the Ministry of Environment and Water Resources, as well as the National Environment Agency, to make a thorough clean of the area.”