KUALA LUMPUR, August 3 — Bandar Kuching MP Dr Kelvin Yii suggested in Parliament today reducing the RM1,000 maximum fine for not wearing face masks in crowded public areas to RM200 to RM300 for first-time offenders.
The DAP lawmaker pointed out that the state of Victoria in Australia imposes an A$200 (RM605) fine for not wearing face masks outside one’s home without lawful justification, amounting to just 6.7 per cent of Australia’s national minimum wage a month, compared to Malaysia’s RM1,000 fine that makes up 83 per cent of the RM1,200 monthly minimum wage.
He firmly said that this is not fair as the main purpose of the fine is to educate and not to punish the public.
“If the fine is too high, this will open up the risk of corruption or bribery among certain enforcers,” said Dr Yii during his debate on the King’s Speech in the Dewan Rakyat this morning.
“To me, RM1,000 may be too high, especially for the poor who may have forgotten to wear [a mask], are unaware about the policy, or other reasons,” he added, urging the government to review punishments under the Prevention and Control of Infectious Diseases Act (PCIDA) 1988 specific to face masks.
Dr Yii, however, said the RM1,000 maximum compound should be maintained for breaking other standard operating procedures (SOPs) related to the Covid-19 outbreak and for those who flout quarantine rules.
Senior Defence Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob clarified later this afternoon in a press conference that wearing face masks was only mandatory in public transport and in “crowded public areas”, not everywhere outside one’s home. The minister listed public markets, pasar tani, pasar malam, supermarkets, tourists spots, and cinemas as “crowded public places”.
Dr Yii urged the government to provide the public with a proper guideline on the face mask rule and to fine-tune the “crowded place” term, as it is confusing for the public on where exactly the rule applies.
“In fact, as far as I know, this policy has not been gazetted or stated or gazetted on any official government website,” said Dr Yii.
The National Security Council’s (NSC) website updated its “New Norms” standard operating procedures (SOP) after Ismail Sabri’s 2pm press conference, but the document dated August 3 simply states that wearing face masks is mandatory when one has Covid-19 symptoms like cough, cold, and sore throat. It is also “compulsory to wear face masks, especially in crowded public places”. No further details were provided.
Dr Yii pointed out that Australia gave very clear guidelines on the Victoria government website on places where the face mask rule applies and exemptions to the rule.
The Sarawakian MP also said the government should also look into ways to provide face masks for the poor, either by giving them reusable masks like in Singapore, or providing a tutorial on a do-it-yourself (DIY) face mask on official government websites like in Australia.
Singapore provides a pair of reusable antimicrobial masks free for every resident that can be collected at vending machines located islandwide at community centres, resident community centres and bus interchanges.
The Malaysian government has made it compulsory, effective August 1, to wear face masks inside public transportation and “crowded” public spaces, where social distancing is impossible.
Those who fail to adhere to the rule can be subject to prosecution under the PCIDA that provides a fine of up to RM1,000, maximum six months’ jail, or both.
However, a regulation specific to face masks under the PCIDA has yet to be gazetted and published on the Attorney-General Chambers’ federal gazette portal.
Ismail Sabri also conceded today that the police would be cancelling summonses issued against people over the weekend for not wearing face masks in their own vehicles, as the government is not mandating the use of face coverings in private transport.