Malaysia’s RM10,000 No-Mask Fine 16 Times Higher Than Australia

First-time offenders in Malaysia are slapped with a RM10,000 fine for not wearing a face mask, higher than Thailand (20,000 baht), Saudi Arabia (SR1,000), Singapore (SGD300), New Zealand (NZD300), and Australia (AUD200).

KUALA LUMPUR, March 16 — Malaysia’s RM10,000 compound for Covid-19 rule violations, including not wearing a face mask, is between four and 16 times higher than Thailand, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, New Zealand, and Australia.

RM10,000 for not wearing a face mask is the highest compound imposed among the six nations, compared to Thailand (RM2,677), Saudi Arabia (RM1,099), Singapore (RM917.01), New Zealand (RM887.80), and Australia (RM637.40).

Malaysia’s minimum wage of RM1,200 monthly is about three to eight times lower than the minimum wage in Saudi Arabia, Singapore, New Zealand, and Australia. Thailand’s monthly minimum wage is slightly lower than Malaysia at about RM968 (20,854 baht).

That means Malaysia’s RM10,000 compound for standard operating procedure (SOP) violations is about 833 per cent of the monthly minimum wage, compared to Australia’s and New Zealand’s no-mask fines that comprise only about 6 per cent and 10 per cent of their monthly minimum wage respectively.

Singapore’s no-mask fine comprises 14 per cent of its minimum monthly wage, followed by Thailand at 96 per cent. Saudi Arabia’s penalty for not following Covid-19 precautionary measures is 25 per cent of its monthly minimum wage.

The Malaysian government claimed that the increased compound for SOP violations from RM1,000 to RM10,000 was to increase public compliance, without giving data on how harsher punishment would increase compliance and lead to lower Covid-19 cases.

According to Our World In Data, over the past two weeks, Malaysia’s seven-days rolling average of daily Covid-19 cases was the highest compared to Thailand, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, New Zealand, and Australia.

As of March 14, the seven-days rolling average of daily Covid-19 cases was highest in Malaysia with 1,472 cases, followed by Saudi Arabia (368 cases), Thailand (81 cases), Australia (12 cases), Singapore (10 cases), and New Zealand (four cases).

On February 25, the Malaysian government gazetted a new order under the Emergency (Prevention and Control of Infectious Diseases) (Amendment) Ordinance 2021, effective March 11, which stated that a compound of RM10,000 can be given to any individual who commits an offence under this Act. If prosecuted, the individual may be liable for a fine not exceeding RM100,000, or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding seven years, or both.

When this order was gazetted, many people who were slapped with the RM10,000 fine on the spot took to social media to express their frustration. An individual shared on his Facebook page how he got fined RM10,000 for not using a face mask while sitting at a restaurant waiting for his food, although his drinks were already served. The police imposed an RM10,000 compound on a man in Perak for wearing a face mask improperly on his chin.

On March 15, a 17-year-old teenager in Melaka received a fine of RM10,000 for not checking-in on the MySejahtera app before entering a grocery store. The boy said he just wanted to check if the shop had the paracetamol brand that he was looking for, but the moment he came out of the shop, a police officer who was not in uniform gave him the compound.

After several incidents, de facto law minister Takiyuddin Hassan then said that the Covid-19 State of Emergency Management Committee will detail today all the offences that will be enforced on, as well as their maximum compound.

Countries like Australia and Singapore clearly outline guidelines on where and what kind of situations when an individual should wear a face mask.

For example, the Singapore government states that all those above the age of two should wear a face mask and anyone escorting the child is responsible for ensuring that the child wears the face mask. They also state that anyone travelling in a car alone does not have to wear a face mask and if there are passengers from the same household, they also do not need to wear face masks.

Australia, which imposes a fine of AU$200 (RM637.40), also states specific exemptions for when people can momentarily take off their mask for example, while communicating with a deaf person, driving in a car by yourself, eating food, drinking, or taking medications when seated. People at the airport can also take off their mask during identity checks.

When Malaysia gazetted this order on February 25, many medical experts shared on their social media pages that an increase in fines is not science based. Previously, international experts in an open letter have also stated that public health education, rather than coercive measures, is more likely to induce cooperation and public trust.

However, besides the no-mask fine, other countries also impose hefty fines on offences like breaking quarantine.

In Saudi Arabia, if an individual breaches quarantine, he or she will be fined SR200,000 (RM219,778.16), or imprisonment for two years, or both. For someone who deliberately spreads the coronavirus, the individual will be fined SR500,000 (RM549,445.41), or imprisonment for five years or both.

Recently in February in Singapore, a British man who breached his quarantine to meet his then-fiancee, who was staying in the same hotel, was sentenced to two weeks of prison and a fine of S$1,000 (RM3,057) under their Infectious Disease Act.

In Singapore, for committing the offence under the Act, an offender can be jailed up to six months and fined up to S$10,000 (RM30,057).

Moreover, New Zealand is equally strict with their quarantine orders. Those found guilty of breaching quarantine in New Zealand can be fined up to NZD4,000 (RM11,837.10) or jailed for six months.

In October last year, a woman in Auckland, New Zealand, was sentenced to prison for 14 days after escaping a Covid-19 isolation facility. The woman and her child fled the quarantine after flying in from Brisbane because she was desperate to attend the funeral of her husband who died unexpectedly. Due to this reason, the judge, who initially also sentenced the daughter of the woman, withdrew the charges on the daughter.

In Australia, those who refuse to comply with public health orders such as physical distancing and a limit on public gatherings can be fined up to AUD20,000 (RM 63,739.10) for individuals and AUD100,000 (RM318.695.31) for businesses.

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