Like wearing condom, masking should not be made mandatory, says activist

From left: Peter John, Abdul Karim and Dr Yii.

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KUCHING, April 15: Likening masking up to wearing a condom, activist Peter John Jaban fully agrees with Tourism, Creative Industry and Performing Arts Minister Dato Sri Abdul Karim Rahman Hamzah that wearing face coverings should not be made mandatory.

He said the whole issue was about a “mandate” and the people should be left with the option of “to wear or not to wear”.

“The key is ‘mandate’. Wear one if you like but don’t force people and don’t fine them. It’s like using condom,” said Peter John in a statement today.

To him, the public should be trusted to know to do the right thing in taking care of their own health as well as the community.

The practice of wearing a face mask should not be dictatorial, especially now that there are accusations of cronyism by creating a new law to benefit a few, he claimed.

“We need to trust the populace to take care of their own health and that of their community in their own way. (The authorities) cannot just dictate.

“Now worst, there are those that start to create new laws to impose, which state that only face masks with Sirim certification may be sold in the market,” he said.

Peter John’s other concern was the environmental issue brought about by indiscriminate littering of face masks.

“I do agreed with him (Abdul Karim). They (face masks) are an environmental nightmare for a start. So many masks littering the streets and blocking toilets. 

“Just look at our streams and rivers. It’s polluted by plastic, masks and such.

“Unless we think we are going to wear them forever, (we) have to accept that Covid-19 is endemic now. People can still wear them (face masks) if they choose to but it shouldn’t be a mandate subject to a fine,” said Peter John adding that the fine imposed may be a big burden to some, especially the rural folk.

To him, educating the general public especially those in the rural areas to be environmentally friendly must come first before the imposition of rules and regulations.

On the related issue of the MySejahtera app, which he described as an “infringement of civil liberties”, he said that was the most pressing issue now.

“MySejahtera even worse but different issue. The monitoring is no longer appropriate. Infringement of civil liberties. Where is the data going?”

Abdul Karim had yesterday expressed his view that mask-wearing should not be made mandatory anymore since Malaysia has entered the Covid-19 endemic phase.

Citing the United Kingdom and Singapore as examples, he said both countries had relaxed the mask-wearing rule where the former had decided that face coverings are no longer required by law while in Singapore, the wearing of masks is optional outdoors since March 29.

The statement he made also took into consideration that tourists from other countries with relaxed mask-wearing rules may find it uncomfortable if they have to put on masks again when they visit Malaysia or Sarawak.

He thus called on the Health Ministry and Sarawak Disaster Management Committee (SDMC) to consider making mask-wearing non-mandatory since Malaysia has entered into Covid-19 endemic phase.

Meanwhile for Bandar Kuching MP Dr Kelvin Yii, every decision to relax restrictions on Covid-19 standard operating procedures (SOPs) even in endemicity must be based on data and scientific findings.

He said data has shown that in outdoor, open ventilated areas, the likelihood of the disease spreading is much lower compared to an indoor, less ventilated space. The data was used in Singapore’s decision to allow un-masking only in outdoor areas but it is still mandatory to wear masks indoors, especially in crowded areas such as on public transport.

He said Malaysia did not see a vertical surge of Omicron cases partly due to the more conservative SOPs including compulsory masking.

“That is why I am glad the Malaysian government did not follow Singapore’s approach of un-masking outdoors in view of Ramadan due to congested events such as Ramadan Bazaars,” said Dr Yii.

Anticipating that outdoor masking will be relaxed after Hari Raya, he encouraged everyone if possible, to put on a mask, especially in congested, crowded areas and less-well ventilated areas. — DayakDaily