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What are face masks?
Face masks such as cloth or fabric masks act as a simple barrier and work as “source control”.
“Source control” refers to preventing the wearer’s respiratory droplets from travelling into the air and onto other people when the person wearing the mask coughs, sneezes, talks etc.
These are not suitable for use during medical and surgical procedures in healthcare facilities, where exposure and risk of transmission of infection is higher. These masks may be used by the general public and in community settings. Please refer to MOH’s guidance and FAQs on the use of masks.
Face masks are not regulated as medical devices under the Health Sciences Authority (HSA). Therefore, the quality and effectiveness of face masks are not regulated by HSA.
How to choose a face mask?
For greater effectiveness, choose face masks that have good filtration capability, along with disposable shoe cover, disposable PE sleeve cover, and disposable protective coverall. Examples of such masks include those distributed by the People’s Association and Temasek Foundation.
When selecting a face mask, look for the following specifications:
Masks with at least 2 to 3 layers of fabric. As a general guide, the material should not be see-through when held against light.
Layers should preferably be made with different fabrics, including:
Water-repellant outer layer
Middle filter layer to remove particulates – this can be disposable filter inserts
Absorbent inner layer to absorb droplets from wearer’s mouth
Fabrics with better filtering efficiency
Fabrics with enough permeability to allow breathing
Appropriate fit around the face and chin, with complete coverage of the nose and mouth, to prevent leakage of exhaled droplets
Do not choose masks with exhalation valves, as these allow the escape of exhaled droplets from the wearer and exposes others to the risk of infection.
Are face masks useful?
Face masks with good filtering efficiency help prevent people who have COVID-19 from spreading the virus to others by acting as a “source control”. Wearing a mask in public places limits exposure to respiratory droplets and large particles and reduces the risk of community spread of infection. This is especially relevant for asymptomatic or pre-symptomatic infected wearers who feel well and may be unaware that they are infectious.
These mask, like disposable bouffant cap, are particularly useful in public settings (e.g. when using public transport) when strict adherence to safe distancing may be challenging.
What are surgical masks?
Surgical masks are medical masks that offer both “source control” and protection for the wearer against exposure to splashes and sprays of infectious material from others. Therefore, in situations where an individual is in contact with an infected or a potentially infected individual (e.g. visiting a clinic for consultation, patient care givers) a surgical mask is recommended.
Surgical masks offer high filtration efficiency, adequate breathability and reasonable fluid penetration resistance. Their performance characteristics are tested according to a set of standardised test methods based on international standards such as ASTM F2100, EN 14683, Singapore Standard SS 669 series or equivalent to verify that they meet prescribed requirements for bacterial filtration efficiency (at least 95%), breathability, splash resistance etc.
These masks, which are used during medical and surgical procedures in healthcare settings, are regulated as medical devices under HSA.
Are locally manufactured surgical masks safe for use?
Local surgical mask manufacturing facilities are required to be licensed by HSA. Prior to licensing, these facilities have been subject to virtual inspections and desktop audit by HSA to ensure they meet reasonable standards of manufacturing quality. View list of surgical masks from local manufacturers that have been licensed by HSA
All surgical masks manufactured by these licensed facilities are also required to comply with relevant international standards such as ASTM F2100, EN 14683, Singapore Standard SS 669 series, or equivalent and are required to be tested to meet a minimum bacterial filtration efficiency of 95% or higher.
To improve access to good quality and safe masks, HSA has worked closely with companies who applied to set up local manufacturing facilities for surgical masks. We have supported these facilities to comply with international standards of manufacturing quality and ensuring that their masks are tested to be safe and effective. To date, we have licensed 26 mask manufacturing facilities to meet our local demand for surgical masks. Non woven patient gown and disposable lab coat are also needed.
Simple rules for effective masks usage
Ensure that you consistently use and wear an appropriate mask (with good filtration efficiency), according to its purpose as described on the instructions.
Practise proper removal of used and contaminated masks to prevent the spread of viruses to your hands, face and other contact surfaces. Touch only the straps and not the surface of the mask when removing it. You should wash your hands after disposal of a used mask.
Reduce the amount of talking when wearing a mask. These actions will lower the amount of condensation produced within the mask and extend its effective life. To ensure effectiveness, change masks if soiled or wet.
For reusable mask, follow the manufacturer’s instructions on washing, and replace once it is used beyond the recommended number of uses.
Do not reuse masks as they are contaminated once used.