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Third round of nationwide mask distribution by Temasek

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We’re a blessed people and often, we take good things for granted. To deal with the pandemic, we have been given quality free masks to help keep ourselves and others safe.

And now, Madam Ho Ching revealed a third round of nationwide mask distribution.

These are 3D mask, similar to the white Singapore lion mask distributed in the National Day pack for every household.

Prudence makes good things possible

Good things are possible because of prudence.

Prudence allowed the Singapore Government to use from carefully stored-up reserves to help Singaporeans and businesses. The billions of dollars utilised does not burden future generations with debt of repayment.

Prudence is also the reason why Temasek is able to give so many rounds of free mask distribution.

For close to 20 years since 2003, Temasek has set aside a share of their positive returns over and above their cost of capital hurdle into a community fund.

The onset of COVID-19 saw Temasek redirect a significant proportion of these community funds to support various initiatives including those initiated by Temasek Foundation.

In February 2020, Temasek directed part of their community funds to establish the Temasek Public Resilience Infectious Disease Emergency (T-PRIDE) fund.

This, together with donations from salary restraint measures implemented across Temasek, helped fund initiatives to safeguard the community.

Temasek set aside $50 million to support the Asean region and Asia, including the epicentre and others in China.

In March, the Temasek board approved another S$500 million from their community fund to be redirected to covid response.

Breathable 3D mask for distribution

In a Facebook post, Mdm Ho Ching announced a third nationwide distribution of the 3D maks. She said the 3D mask is breathable. It is suitable for use during exercise at gyms. It is washable and reusable for 30 or more washes.

The mask comes with spare filters which can be slipped into the mask pocket for more protection in crowded places.

It comes in different sizes too!

With a proper fit, a 3D mask can sit nicely on the nose, and wraps under the chin, with enough room to breathe, and talk without the mask slipping down our nose,” Mdm Ho Ching said.

Creating ‘herd immunity’ with mask wearing

Singapore’s R0 (pronounced R naught) is 1 and not 2 or 3 for COVID-19. R0 tells how many person/s an infected person will spread the disease to.

This is due in huge part to everyone wearing masks and keeping our saliva droplets to ourselves, Mdm Ho Ching said. The wearing of masks helps to create a kind of herd immunity. It is even helpful in reducing other respiratory infections like flu and common cold.

Reactive Surveillance

Today, anyone who presents with respiratory symptoms at a GP clinic will be tested for COVID-19. This is reactive surveillance, reacting to symptoms presentation.

Proactive search for silent clusters through community screening

The proactive search for silent COVID-19 cases complements the reactive surveillance of testing anyone who presents with respiratory symptoms at a GP clinics.

Proactive search is done through community screening such as the one done for hawkers, food deliverers and merchants. It was conducted in Marine Parade and Ang Mo Kio and most recently in Boon Lay. Proactive searches also include pre-testing for events like MMA, conferences and cruises.

We now have tools and capabilities we didn’t have before, said Ho Ching.

Such proactive searches helps us to identify cases early for treatment. It also reduces ‘the risk of large hidden clusters, lurking beneath the calm, like a dangerous iceberg’. We can avoid what we experienced in March/April when cases exploded after spreading silently.

Why we should be more deliberate in proactive screening

Data from many countries show that their infection rates are several times more than their confirmed cases. How is this known? Through sampling of their population using the antibody tests. Antibodies are produced by the body’s immune system in response to infections.

“With antibodies, we find that there are proportionately more people who have had infections, than what the confirmed cases show,” Ho Ching said. “Hence, we should be more deliberate in proactive pre-emption of hidden superspreading or silent clusters.”

Mask wearing, Proactive searching, Reactive Surveillance

These three measures cover a lot of ground. The rest is up to us to keep up the highest level of vigilance and play our part responsibly.

It’s a fire drill!

“As we put in place more robust systems to manage various risk hazard points, we can then re-open various activities including travel, pubs and KTVs,” said Ho Ching.

Concluding her post, Mdm Ho Ching wrote:

This is like a fire drill.
Practise, practise, improve, improve, so that we can organise and respond well, efficiently, and lower the cost in money, social, human psychology and wellbeing, as well as livelihoods.
The faster we can re-open safely, the better for everyone.
Cannot remain shellshocked and frozen by fear.
Or waste the cool weather we are having now.
Meanwhile, others are working hard on other fronts – vaccines, treatment and therapeutics, even better test kits using breath for instance, etc.
So don’t lost heart and don’t be complacent.
We can relax without being complacent – this is a long mile to run.
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