Singapore commuters keep masks on despite discarded COVID-19 public transport rule

Mask-wearing on public transport in Singapore ceased to be mandatory on Monday (Feb 13) but most commuters were seen retaining their face coverings while on trains and buses Monday morning.

A multi-ministry task force announced last week that from Monday, it would no longer require the donning of masks on public transport, as Singapore steps down its disease alert level for COVID-19 to the lowest.

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But a 37-year-old lawyer, who only wanted to be known as Mr Ang, kept his mask on for his train commute on the North-South Line from Ang Mo Kio to his Raffles Place workplace on Monday morning.

“The train was really crowded,” he told CNA. “For me, I just recovered from an illness so it’s more out of consideration for others as well … It’s just more socially responsible.”

He observed that about 90 to 95 per cent of other people on the train were also wearing a mask.

“Eventually (I will stop wearing one). But for now, probably out of precaution, because it has worked so far, so why change something that has worked?” said Mr Ang, adding that trains and buses were more enclosed than other indoor areas.

“Over the next two weeks, if cases get higher and then we’ll see if it actually works.”

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Waiting at Dover MRT station to catch a bus to Bukit Merah was Ms Patricia Yap, a personal assistant. She was not wearing a mask then, and was not wearing a mask either when taking a train to Dover earlier.

“It feels good, because it doesn’t smear my makeup,” she said, adding that the train she took this morning was less crowded. 

“There are still a lot of people wearing masks, even outside. But I’ve not been wearing masks in indoor places since that restriction was lifted,” said Ms Yap, who had been looking forward to Monday’s further relaxation of public transport safeguards.

“I’m used to not wearing masks now.”

From 8am to 9am on a crowded East-West Line train with people making their way to work, only a handful of commuters in each cabin chose not to wear a mask, CNA observed.

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On the slightly less packed Circle and North-East Lines, commuters had more standing room. But CNA observed most passengers still continuing to wear a mask, with some putting them on specifically for when they were about to board a train.

After alighting from the trains or exiting the stations, many commuters removed their masks.

Ms Irit Regev, a 52-year-old tourist from Israel, alighted at Raffles Place station and removed her mask after stepping outside. She wore one for her short train ride from City Hall MRT station.

While researching her trip to Singapore, she knew that Monday was the first day masks would be optional on public transport – but chose to wear one all the same.

“Because a lot of people still had their masks on … I’m not from here so I wore one, I thought people would give me trouble if I didn’t wear it,” she said.

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Ms Denise Ho, 27, chose not to wear a mask as she took the North-East line to her Clarke Quay workplace at about 9am.

She said the “normalcy” reminded her of pre-pandemic times.

“Most people still had their masks on, almost 90 per cent of them. Perhaps because it’s only the first day, so some adjustment is required,” she said.

Although this did not influence her keep a mask on, she admitted to feeling “slightly insecure”.

Like Mr Ang the lawyer, she said she would opt to wear a mask if she was feeling unwell.

Retiree Sim Choon Fook, who took the North-East Line from Boon Keng to Chinatown MRT station, wore a mask on the train and removed it immediately after alighting.

“I nearly forgot it was today, until I saw a few people not wearing one on the bus this morning,” he said in Mandarin.

The 64-year-old said he would still wear a mask on trains or buses if it was crowded.

“I don’t know who here on the train will be sick and coughing everywhere. So I have to protect myself.”

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