KUALA LUMPUR, July 8 – The Ministry of Health (MOH) may restore enforcement of Malaysia’s indoor mask mandate with compounds for non-compliance if Covid-19 cases surge exponentially, Khairy Jamaluddin said today.
The health minister said MOH stopped issuing compounds under the Prevention and Control of Infectious Diseases Act 1988 (Act 342) from April 17, in line with the country’s transition to endemicity, because health authorities decided to prioritise individual and community responsibility over legislative enforcement.
“If cases continue rising, and if they rise exponentially, the Ministry of Health does not reject enforcing Act 342 again, especially on those who refuse to wear face masks indoors,” Khairy told a press conference here.
He said face masks should always be worn indoors in public areas, except when one is eating or drinking, giving a speech, or taking photographs.
Khairy said he had no particular Covid-19 case figure in mind that would trigger punitive enforcement of the indoor mask mandate, but pointed out that MOH is currently the only agency authorised to issue compounds under Act 342.
This is because all other authorities, especially the police, asked MOH to revoke Act 342 enforcement powers from them during the transition to the endemic phase as “they had other work to do”.
“So we agreed,” Khairy said. “I personally don’t want to issue compounds anymore because by now, we should know what to do.”
“Besides, if we issue compounds, many of my minister colleagues will get it,” he added snidely.
Compounds for offences under Act 342 are limited to RM1,000. Khairy failed to push amendments to Act 342 that proposed raising compounds for individuals to a maximum of RM10,000 and increased general penalties to up to seven years’ jail, a maximum RM100,000 fine, or both upon conviction.
Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob told the Umno general assembly last March that his administration has decided to drop the controversial Act 342 amendment bill after public outrage.
Covid-19 cases reported nationwide in the first five days of the 27th epidemiological week of the year (July 3 to 7) increased 31 per cent compared to the same period in the previous week, while Covid-19 hospital admissions rose 13.7 per cent.
From July 3 to 7, MOH recorded 10 Covid-19 deaths, seven of whom were aged 60 years and older.
Yesterday, more than 4,000 new Covid-19 infections were reported; the last time Malaysia exceeded a 3,000 daily case count was on May 13 with 3,029 new cases.