SINGAPORE – Singapore has made masks optional in most settings but many customer-facing staff are still keeping theirs on. 

Ten days after the rules here were relaxed, many who work in settings such as hair salons, childcare centres and supermarkets continue to have their masks on, though most businesses that The Straits Times spoke to said that they have not put in place any policy mandating this. Employees can make their own decisions, they said.

In a significant step towards living with Covid-19, the multi-ministry task force tackling Covid-19 announced a fortnight back that masks would not be required in most indoor settings from Aug 29.

Masking up is now mandatory only in healthcare settings and on public transport. These comprise healthcare facilities, residential care homes and the indoor premises in hospitals and polyclinics.

Public transport commuters must keep their masks on when riding on buses and trains and in indoor facilities such as the boarding areas of bus interchanges. 

Employees from salon chain QB House told ST that they had received instructions to keep their masks on while cutting customers’ hair.

A female employee, who declined to be identified, said: “Our management told us to keep our masks on for the time being, since we are dealing with so many customers on a daily basis.

“Anyway we work in an air-conditioned environment so it’s not uncomfortable and I’m quite used to wearing a mask already over the past two years.” 

At haarAttic hair salon, which has outlets in Keong Saik Road and Boat Quay, employees are encouraged to wear masks, though it is not compulsory to do so.

Its managing director Chen Yii Wei said this comes after feedback from customers.

“We do this so that (employees) can protect both themselves and customers,” he said. “Most customers do feel more secure if the staff have their mask on. We see this as a new normal… as protection is both ways.”

A similar policy is implemented at all Star Learners’ 42 childcare centres, according to the chain’s deputy head Audrey Chen.

“Even as mask-wearing is made optional, the majority of our teachers still prefer to mask up to lower the risks of transmission, if any, to the little ones they care for daily.

“As the nation moves to become more Covid-19-resilient, I believe all front-facing staff will eventually not have to wear masks,” she said.

Ms Chen added that about three-quarters of employees opt to keep their masks on and almost all are vaccinated, which gives parents peace of mind.