Four doctors in Singapore have written the following advice against the government’s stand of not wearing masks when a person is well.
In 2003, a robust government response led by PM Lee enabled doctors at the front line to protect Singaporeans from SARs. Victims were identified, traced and isolated in special hospital rooms. There were 238 cases and 33 deaths.
In 2019, things are not so straightforward with the 2019-nCoV. The infected are not always traceable and containable within hospital isolation rooms. As this virus is said to be milder, infected people with no symptoms could transmit the virus to others silently. A certain percentage will develop the deadly disease. Temperature screening works less well to identify those infected. As they mingle freely and unmasked, more and more people could be infected daily without knowing it.
Because of high numbers possibly infected in the community, deaths could exceed SARs. CNN reported the death toll has already overtook SARs. Britain, Malaysia and South Korea have cases caught in Singapore. Kuwait and Qatar have issued travel advisories to their citizens concerning Singapore. Sarawak has advised its people to be quarantined upon arrival from Singapore.
We are advising everyone to wear a mask always when leaving home. If one faces a person and both parties are masked, it is considerably safer, constituting a 2 barrier protection. It may not be possible for everyone to get a new surgical mask everyday. We need to find creative solutions. Some people have purchased washable cloth masks, sewed them, constructed them with suitable paper, or tied a scarf to the face. These measures are better than no mask at all. We are not trying to disclaim the health authorities who have a challenging task; but professionally we feel the need to disseminate this message immediately in the interest of safety and life preservation. We are confident that the authorities will respond accordingly in the interest of Singaporeans’ health.
Unnecessary mingling should be avoided. Our advice includes: in a taxi, wind down the windows. Minimize dwell times in air-conditioned places, malls and food courts. Use online delivery services. Schools should conduct online learning. We recognize that worship is important for social cohesion and instilling inner calm. Places of worship could use fans and natural ventilation, minimize the length of their services, conduct more frequent sessions so people will be in smaller groups and can stand further apart. They should not admit unmasked worshippers.
If we all do this 2M rule (wear Mask, stop Mingling), in 2 weeks, the worst could be over.
Dr Colleen Thomas MCR 05352Z
Dr Judy Chen MCR 05364C
Dr Tham Hoe Meng MCR 05512C
Dr Lim Pin Pin MCR 05241H