Mask off or on? Tourism Minister all for it, Bandar Kuching MP cautions against it

Abdul Karim (left) and Dr Yii.

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By Lian Cheng

KUCHING, April 14: Tourism, Creative Industry and Performing Arts Minister Dato Sri Abdul Karim Rahman Hamzah holds that mask-wearing should not be made mandatory anymore since Malaysia has entered the Covid-19 endemic phase.  

Quoting the United Kingdom and Singapore, 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.

To him, at this stage, Malaysians should be given the option to decide whether they want to continue to wear face masks or to make it optional outdoors like Singapore. 

He 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.

“Since we have entered the endemic phase, the Health Ministry and Sarawak Disaster Management Committee (SDMC) should consider making mask-wearing non-mandatory,” he told DayakDaily when contacted.

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.

“Based on current knowledge, the data now shows that in outdoor, open ventilated areas, the likelihood of the disease spreading is much lower compared to an indoor, less ventilated space. 

“So in that sense, if we are outdoors, in a non-congested area, it is somewhat safer not to put on a mask. Such 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,” said Dr Yii. 

With that said, he pointed out that data has also shown that over-relaxed Covid-19 restrictions especially in other countries may cause a vertical surge of cases that still overwhelms the healthcare system which leads to diminishing the quality of care for all patients. 

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

“So even though the data shows less likelihood (of spreading Covid-19), it doesn’t mean it can’t spread in outdoor areas especially in crowded and congested areas.

“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.

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