KUALA LUMPUR, July 23 — The government has made it compulsory, effective August 1, to wear face masks inside public transportation, crowded public spaces, and areas where social distancing is impossible.
Senior Defence Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob said those who flout the mandatory mask rule can be subject to prosecution under the Prevention and Control of Infectious Diseases Act 1988 that provide for a fine of up to RM1,000, close to the minimum monthly wage of RM1,100 or RM1,200.
The law also imposes a penalty of six months’ imprisonment, or both fine and jail.
Ismail Sabri said the public can also wear hand-made masks that comply with the specifications provided by the World Health Organization (WHO).
“The public can sew their masks to protect them as well as their family members,” he said in a press conference today.
“The public can prepare their own masks by following the specifications given by the WHO which will be announced by the Health Ministry.”
As Covid-19 cases begin to rise in the country again, with new daily infections hitting double digits, the Ministry of Health (MOH) has emphasised that the use of face masks in public and social distancing measures could significantly reduce the spread of the virus.
“We did not make the use of masks mandatory because we know that it will burden the low-income earners as the masks should be disposed of after using each time,” Ismail Sabri stated.
“The best method is to wear a mask for three hours, but at least we can use it for a day.
“If the family size is big, obviously the financial burden that they have to sustain would be big too, especially the low- income earners and the poor,” he added.
Ismail also claimed that the Malaysian public was not serious in following the prescribed standard operating procedures (SOP) to curb the coronavirus.
Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs Minister Alexander Nanta Linggi reportedly said earlier today that the ceiling price for face masks will be reduced to RM1.20 a piece from RM1.50, effective August 15.
It is to be noted that countries like Venezuela, Vietnam, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Bosni Herzegovina, Colombia, the United Arab Emirates, Cuba, Austria, Israel, Argentina, Poland have made the use of face masks mandatory in public places.
Recently, the Australian government announced a fine of A$200 (RM609) for those who refuse to wear face masks in public in Melbourne and the adjacent Mitchell Shire. The Guardian reported that France has made face masks compulsory in public places indoors like shops, supermarkets, and banks, with contraventions risking a €135 (RM665) fine. South China Morning Post reported that Hong Kong is expected to pass a law this week to make wearing face masks mandatory in indoor public places like shopping centres.