Police Can Instantly Give Fines Or Simply Warn Over Mandatory Masks: Minister

Ismail Sabri also says the Education Ministry is currently considering whether to close schools after a primary school pupil in Sabah got infected with Covid-19.

KUALA LUMPUR, July 30 — The police have discretion to act against those who flout the latest ruling to wear face masks in public places, Ismail Sabri Yaakob said today.

The senior defence minister said it would be mandatory from August 1 to wear face coverings in public transport and crowded public places like wet markets.

“When we say compulsory, the offence has already been gazetted, the ruling has been gazetted under Act 342,” Ismail Sabri told a press conference today, referring to the Prevention and Control of Infectious Diseases Act 1988.

“So the police can issue immediate compounds, but they can also use their discretion to give advice. We leave it to the police.”

It is unknown what is stated in the written regulation on the mandatory use of face masks, as the Attorney-General’s Chambers federal gazette website is down. Regulations gazetted under the Prevention and Control of Infectious Diseases Act provide for a maximum of RM1,000 fine, up to six months’ jail, or both for violations.

Health advocates have called for clear language on the definition of public places under the mandatory mask ruling, with the Malaysian Thoracic Society saying that exemptions from the rule, such as small children or people with breathing problems, must be made explicit.

Medical groups have also urged the government to provide free reusable masks to low-income people, but there is still no sign of this two days before the rule goes into effect.

When asked if the government would close schools, after a primary school pupil in Sabah contracted Covid-19 on July 27, Ismail Sabri said he believed this was under the Education Ministry’s consideration.

“The Education Ministry will announce in the nearest time, I believe,” he said.

The Sarawak state government yesterday announced that the reopening of 164 primary and secondary schools in Kuching, Padawan, and Samarahan districts would be postponed to August 17, amid a rise of Covid-19 cases in the state, particularly in the state capital of Kuching.

When asked if the government would enforce a lockdown in Kubang Pasu, Kedah, following the closure of 73 Kemas kindergartens and three daycare centres due to the Sivagangga cluster that has infected six people so far, Ismail Sabri said the situation would be reviewed and if the outbreak grew uncontrollably, the Ministry of Health would discuss it with the National Security Council.

“In terms of our policies on the Movement Control Order (MCO), we have changed from previously. Before this, we imposed an MCO on the entire country. Then, it’s MCO based on locality,” Ismail Sabri said.

Malaysia’s daily new Covid-19 cases have risen to double digits since July 17, besides reporting new coronavirus clusters. Sarawak accounted for 40 per cent of the 120 cases confirmed nationwide in the 30th epidemiological week from July 19 to 25, amid aggressive testing and contact tracing measures in the state.

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