Washing hands more important than wearing mask: MOH director
The director of medical services at the Ministry of Health (MOH), Associate Professor Kenneth Mak, reiterated yesterday that the best defence against the coronavirus, now named Covid-19, is the frequent washing of hands and being mindful of what one touches.
Prof Mak was responding to an advisory signed by four doctors, telling everyone to wear a mask when leaving their homes.
The advisory said: "If one faces a person and both parties are masked, it is considerably safer, constituting a two-barrier protection."
Acknowledging that not everyone would be able to get a new surgical mask every day, the doctors urged Singaporeans to find creative solutions, such as buying washable cloth masks, or tying a scarf to the face.
They said in the advisory: "These measures are better than no mask at all. We are not trying to disclaim the health authorities who have a very challenging task, but professionally, we feel the need to disseminate this message immediately in the interest of safety and life preservation."
Government leaders have been saying that only those who are unwell need to wear a mask. As the virus is spread by droplets, keeping hands clean and not touching one's eyes are more important to avoid catching the bug.
Experts in Australia and Taiwan and a World Health Organisation consultant have also said masks should be worn only by those who are unwell.
Prof Mak said the various letters, e-mails and WhatsApp messages circulating were all with good intentions, and some, including the doctors' advisory, had relevant advice like the washing of hands frequently.
But he also reminded the public that the virus is spread by droplets, and there is no evidence that it is airborne.
"... be aware of things you commonly touch. The thing most commonly touched is your phone, so wearing a mask is not the most important thing.
He said: "The best form of advice I can give you to defend yourself is washing your hands regularly, frequently, with soap and water, and also to be mindful of the things that you commonly touch. It is not wearing a mask that is the most important - it is hand-washing."