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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.


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.

Surgical masks

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[4] or equivalent to verify that they meet prescribed requirements for bacterial filtration efficiency (at least 95%), breathability, splash resistance etc. 

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