By Chew Lip Song
THE government has been urged to make wearing face masks mandatory in high-risk areas to curb the spread of Covid-19.
Bandar Kuching MP Dr Kelvin Yii said these premises include markets, clinics and hospitals, malls, schools, public transport, public halls and enclosed venues where people converge in groups for a prolonged period and where interactions are unavoidable.
The doctor-turned-lawmaker added that about 75 countries worldwide have mandated the wearing of masks in public, failing offenders could be fined. The countries include Germany, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Austria, Qatar, South Korea, France, Spain, Turkey and Venezuela.
Since about 70 per cent of Covid-19 patients in Malaysia were asymptomatic, the use of face masks becomes more important, Dr Yii added. This is because many may not know they had been infected and may unknowingly spread the disease.
“Face masks are mainly designed to protect people from the wearer. The current SOP may be insufficient including the recording temperature in most public places, which cannot identify a carrier especially if they are asymptomatic.
“That is why an additional layer of protection should be added especially against droplets, which is the primary source of the spread of the virus,” Dr Yii said in a statement today.
Admitting that while “universal masking” is still debated, recent studies indicate that the practise can help slow down the spread of the coronavirus considerably.
A recent study shows that even if 80 percent of the population wears masks, that act itself would do more to reduce the spread of Covid-19 than a strict lock down.
To encourage more Malaysians to wear masks, Dr Yii said the government should look into making the item more affordable, including revising its ceiling price.
“It is regrettable that the promised free mask by the federal government did not reach most of its intended target as many has complained not receiving it until now.
“The government should also provide mask especially in schools to give extra protection for our younger generations, the teachers and the staff in the school,” he added.
He also called on the government to provide incentives for local mask manufacturers to boost production and to educate the public on the proper use of non-medical fabric masks.
Dr Yii added that with parts of the country, especially Kuching seeing spike in Covid-19 cases, the government should enforce more protection to avoid a possible second wave of the pandemic.