The mask mandate for indoor settings has been lifted, except for medical facilities and public transport, as announced yesterday. Does this mean there will be no risk of Covid-19 infection with this announcement? Of course not.
As of September 7, 2022, there are 2,428 newly reported cases, with a positivity rate of 7.6 per cent, which means the number is under-reported. Luckily, 95 per cent had mild symptoms and are in home quarantine.
Hospital admissions and ICU usage due to Covid-19 were 22.1 per cent and 18.1 per cent respectively. The statistics show that although the situation is under control, Covid-19 still poses risks to some, especially those at high risk and the elderly.
If we are not required to wear masks by law, do we follow suit? Do we feel uncomfortable if people around us are not wearing masks but we are still masking?
We should not be obliged to follow the rest, whether we mask up or not. The government has returned the power to the people to decide for ourselves whether we want to mask up or not, be it indoors or outdoors. We are not forced to wear masks anymore, except in medical facilities and public transport.
Before vaccines were available, ecological studies found that Covid-19 transmission was 7.5 times higher in countries that did not have a mask mandate. With the Omicron virus variant, vaccination may not be very effective in the prevention of infection, but it is effective in preventing severe diseases, thus reducing the rates of hospitalisation and death.
However, we should not have the perception that a mild Covid-19 infection is fine. There is always the possibility of having post-Covid symptoms or long Covid.
Those who have had multiple infections compared to those with just one infection may exhibit increased risk and excess burden of all-cause mortality, hospitalisation, and adverse health outcomes in the acute and post-acute phase of the reinfection.
Therefore, with the removal of the mask mandate, it is hope that cases do not surge nor increase the burden for our health care system. This is where we should be socially responsible.
If and when we are infected, even though with mild symptoms, we should report to MySejahtera and isolate ourselves so that we don’t infect our family members, colleagues and friends. We should put on our masks when we have flu-like symptoms, even though we have tested negative.
When it comes to masking up, w should weigh the risks properly. Are we within high-risk groups who are aged 60 years and above, with comorbidities or with low immunity, and who are prone to severe disease? Are we vaccinated or boosted?
Do we want to protect our loved ones from being infected? Do we frequent crowded places? Is there good ventilation at those places?
There is no right or wrong answer. It is our choice. We alone should be responsible. Stay safe and stay healthy.
Prof Moy Foong Ming is from the Department of Social and Preventive Medicine, Faculty of Medicine, University of Malaya.
- This is the personal opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of CodeBlue.