Over the past few days, there has been confusion about whether or not the public should be wearing a mask when they are outside.
The Kuala Lumpur City Hall (DBKL) first released a statement on 22 March that ordered the general public, mainly licensees, employees, visitors, customers, and suppliers to wear face masks when entering supermarkets, grocery/convenience stores, restaurant, and public/private markets during the Movement Control Order.
What with the shortage in the supply of facemask nationwide, its statement received backlash from netizens who were still frantically searching for face masks, and who may have received different instructions after reading online claims by experts and healthcare professionals that wearing a face mask would not be necessary if you do not show any symptoms of the virus.
DBKL’s statement was soon refuted by the Health Director-General, Datuk Dr. Noor Hisham Abdullah who said that it would be excessive to make everybody wear face masks in public.
According to him, only frontliners and those with symptoms of COVID-19 would be required to wear a facemask and that the Ministry of Health (MOH) has followed the World Health Organisation (WHO) guidelines on the wearing of face masks outside the home.
“According to the WHO, you wear face masks if you have symptoms, are taking care of COVID-19 patients or are working in an environment where you are constantly facing the public,” he said.
“Generally, social distancing is more than enough. It is not necessary to wear a mask but some of us overdo it, despite the advisory given (by health authorities),” said Dr. Noor Hisham during the recent media briefing on the status of the COVID-19 pandemic in the nation.
When asked whether there was a ruling that people must wear masks when they were on the road or in stores during the Movement Control Order period, he replied that under the guidelines issued by the Health Ministry, face masks need only to be worn by individuals who have respiratory symptoms (including cough and cold-like symptoms) or who are frontliners in healthcare and public order.
His sentiment was also echoed by Senior Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob, who also assured the public that there would be no crackdown on people not wearing face masks outside of their house.
Based on reports by the Malay Mail, the minister said that there is no such rule that makes it mandatory for the public to wear face masks.
“Even though there is no fixed rule that all must wear face masks, it was the initiative taken by the supermarkets.”
“However, for us the important thing is the social distancing and not entering supermarkets with masks,” he said adding that any supermarkets can take their own initiatives to help the authorities in curbing the infection but should be wary of making up rules that superseded the order enforced by the government.
Even beyond supermarkets, there should not be a requirement for everyone to wear face masks, unless they fall under the category mentioned by MOH.
“At the roadblocks, those who have no essential need to be on the streets will be asked to go home. We do not check if they are wearing masks,” said the Defence Minister who advised the public to abide by the Health Ministry guidelines on COVID-19 precautions.
DBKL has since revised its earlier directive that instructed the public to wear face masks when entering stores to now focus on social distancing. The public is now only “encouraged” to wear face masks and hand sanitizers when needed.
We hope that clears the air. So, will you be wearing a facemask?
By: Siti Farhana Sheikh Yahya