Mild confusion, panic and the joy of having a choice: How it felt going mask-free outdoors


SINGAPORE: I jumped out of mattress with a pep in my step, keen to go away the home and see a courageous new world.

Today was the first day that relaxed COVID-19 guidelines kicked in, together with not having to put on a masks outdoors – a change I embraced with open arms.

I’d lengthy loathed the discomfort of sweating beneath a masks, particularly so throughout lengthy out of doors assignments in our stifling tropical warmth.

There was a tiny pleasure in me as I left the home for breakfast at a close by hawker centre, sans masks.

How liberating to really feel the sunshine on the decrease half of my face, with the vindication of understanding it was allowed. And I used to be not even vigorously exercising! 

But quickly, that sentiment turned to slight sheepishness and bewilderment as I realised: “Was I really the only one not wearing my mask?”

At each flip, almost everybody round me – aged, younger households, some on their option to work – nonetheless had their masks on.

It appeared the sentiments pooled by an off-the-cuff CNA ballot final week, during which greater than 75 per cent of respondents mentioned they’d preserve their masks on, weren’t far off the mark.


At an open-air hawker centre, I masked as much as enter. Shortly after, I eliminated it to have a plate of toast at a desk close to the entrance.

When I used to be prepared to go away, I used to be confronted with my first dilemma of the day.

I used to be lower than 10 seconds away from the exit.

Should I placed on my masks – simply to take away it once more as soon as I step out from the hawker centre (“indoors”) into the “outdoors”?

I made a decision to not masks up for the treacherous six-second journey, however I made positive to take a lengthy, conspicuous sip of my teh bing siu dai as a defend from potential scorn.

Later, I headed to the MRT station, unmasked. Before getting into although, I needed to put down my laptop computer, bag, and drink, to rummage via my bag for the masks.

“Maybe … I should have just kept it on,” I assumed.


Exiting One North MRT station, I peeled off my masks once more.

Ah, I couldn’t keep in mind the final time I made the lengthy stroll from the station to the Mediacorp constructing with out higher lip sweat beading beneath my face protecting.

It wasn’t crowded, however there nonetheless weren’t many kindred souls (unmasked individuals) round.

The solar was blazing on this explicit morning and I used to be so glad to be mask-free. The caress of a slight breeze towards my face was a delight.

As my thoughts wandered off, nonetheless, I used to be struck by a sudden flash of panic: “Where’s my mask?!”

Then I remembered: “It was fine. I won’t be getting in trouble with vigilantes looking for the next person breaking the mask-on rule.”

This muscle reminiscence was going to take a whereas to readjust.

Later, when my colleague and I headed out for lunch in the sweltering midday warmth, we have been nonetheless one of the uncommon few unmasked.

The meals court docket we went to brimmed with crowds, probably owing to the return of extra employees to the workplace.

As I headed residence later, I savoured the night breeze on my stroll again to the MRT station.


I totally perceive different individuals’s selections to stay masked outdoors – be it for comfort or security.

There are nonetheless 1000’s of infections a day, and individuals have completely different, legitimate, considerations about the virus and their very own susceptibility in direction of COVID-19.

Like others I spoke to earlier than the guidelines kicked in, I used to be additionally not completely throwing warning to the wind with the relaxed guidelines.

Each time I unmasked outdoors right this moment, there have been hardly another individuals round me. But if I have been at a crowded bus cease throughout peak hour, I’d most likely suppose twice about eradicating it.

As some have expressed, I too discovered the guidelines about indoors and outdoors barely arbitrary to navigate. Being unmasked would additionally take some getting used to.

But for all the delicate confusion, flashes of panic, and slight discomfort of being the odd one out, the joy of some freedom – of having at the very least the choice to be mask-free – was value it.

For many, it was the fruition of months of wishing for a return to some normalcy. It was a feeling that we’ve begun transferring on from this stage of the pandemic. And for right this moment, it was a feeling I relished.

Mild confusion, panic and the joy of having a choice: How it felt going mask-free outdoors

Cheryl Lin

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