KUALA LUMPUR, July 20 — Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin has indicated the possibility of introducing a new law to mandate wearing face masks in public spaces, amid fresh Covid-19 outbreaks in Malaysia.
Health authorities today reported 21 new coronavirus cases, including 15 local transmissions, while active infectious cases have climbed back up to above 100.
Hong Kong, France, and Australian city Melbourne have made face masks compulsory in public spaces, even as the World Health Organization (WHO) reported a record one-day increase of global Covid-19 cases on Saturday at 259,848 confirmed cases
“The government is also considering mandating the use of face masks in public places. Details on this will be announced when the rules are finalised by the government,” Muhyiddin said in a speech today.
Health director-general Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah tweeted Saturday that the government has not made face masks compulsory because regulations passed under the Prevention and Control of Infectious Diseases Act 1988 provide for a penalty of maximum RM1,000 fine, six months’ jail, or both.
Bandar Kuching MP Dr Kelvin Yii recently stated that the use of face masks should be made obligatory in public spaces like markets, clinics, hospitals, schools, public halls, enclosed venues, and public transportation, that accommodate large numbers of people.
Furthermore, Muhyiddin today emphasised the important role of family members to remind and advise each other to practice all the safety measures to combat Covid-19
“In this movement control phase, every individual in families and communities is the frontliner,” he added.
“Parents must always remind their children to always wear masks when leaving the house. Remind them to follow social distance measures, always wash their hands, avoid crowded places, do not shake hands and so on. Remind them every day,” he said.
The prime minister also pointed out that in the workplace, employers must always remind employees to comply with the prescribed standard operating procedures (SOP).
“Always monitor your employees, place notices or reminders about SOPs to be observed,” he stated.
In the Conditional Movement Control Order (CMCO) period, the economic and social sectors resumed in stages in the country. The first phase of school reopening took place on June 24 for students sitting for examinations, followed by most secondary school students and Years 5 and 6 of primary schools on July 15.
“At school, principals, teachers, prefects and class leaders should play a more proactive role,” Muhyiddin stated.
Senior Defence Minister Ismail Sabri Yakob previously reiterated that it is not compulsory to wear face masks in schools. However, he instructed schools to provide masks to students and staff who show coronavirus symptoms during school sessions.
Muhyiddin also highlighted the duties of other parts of the community to eradicate Covid-19 in the country.
“I would also like to involve village heads and community leaders to take care of their communities.
“The village head together with the members of the village committee, for example, can make a visit or patrol to places that are often visited by the villagers.”
Malaysia also announced a mandatory self-quarantine for returnees from abroad at their respective residential places.
Ismail Sabri announced last month that individuals found violating the mandatory quarantine rule will be fined RM1,000 and charged in court.
Today, the prime minister repeated the reminder for foreign returnees to obey the mandatory rule and stated that the government will not take things lightly against those who breach the rule.
Malaysia imposed a strict nationwide lockdown for seven weeks from March 18 to May 3 in response to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Strict movement restrictions were implemented in stages under the Prevention and Control of Infectious Diseases Act 1988 and the Police Act 1967.
From March 27, specific locations with detected Covid-19 clusters were put under an Enhanced Movement Control Order (EMCO) for 14 days.
The CMCO ended on June 9 and now Malaysia is now in the Recovery Movement Control Order (RMCO) phase from June 10. The RMCO is expected to end August 31.