‘Face masks not needed for all’

PETALING JAYA: It is excessive to make everybody wear face masks in public, says Health director-general Datuk Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah.

He said only frontliners and those with symptoms of Covid-19 needed to put on the masks.

Dr Noor Hisham said the Health Ministry followed the World Health Organisation (WHO) guidelines on the wearing of face masks outside the home.

“According to the WHO, you wear face masks if you have symptoms, are taking care of Covid-19 patients or are working in an environment where you are constantly facing the public.

“Generally, social distancing is more than enough. It is not necessary to wear a mask but some of us overdo it despite the advisory given (by health authorities),” said Dr Noor Hisham at a media briefing on the status of the Covid-19 pandemic in the country.

He was asked if as part of the movement control order, there was a ruling that people must wear masks when they were on the road or in stores.

Under the guidelines issued by the Health Ministry, face masks need only to be worn by individuals who have respiratory symptoms (including cough and cold-like symptoms) or who are frontliners in healthcare and public order.

There has been some confusion among the public about this matter because some premises have insisted on visitors wearing masks.

However, several hypermarkets say they will follow the Health Ministry’s guidelines and will not force shoppers to wear masks.

Mydin Mohamed Holdings Bhd managing director Datuk Ameer Ali Mydin said that as of now all Mydin stores nationwide would observe the guidelines.

“We can encourage but not force customers to wear face masks, especially as there are no stocks of masks in the market anyway at whatever price,” said Ameer Ali.

A Tesco (Malaysia) Sdn Bhd spokesman said the retailer would also abide by the guidelines.

“We will keep to the guidelines issued by the health authorities on the use of face masks in our stores nationwide.

“However, because our employees deal with the customers, we have provided them with cloth masks,” said the spokesman.

Tesco acknowledged that there had been mixed messages from various local authorities and that had caused confusion over the use of masks.

A spokesman for GCH Retail Malaysia, which runs retail outlets that include Giant hypermarts, TMC, Cold Storage, GEkspres, Shopsmart and Mercato, said: “In accordance with the Health Ministry guidelines, we are advising our customers as well as team members to only wear a mask should they have any of the symptoms.”

“The well-being of our customers and team members remains our top priority and we ask everyone to exercise good personal hygiene at all times.”

Meanwhile, Senior Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob assured the public that there would be no crackdown on the wearing of masks.

“At the roadblocks, those who have no essential needs to be on the streets will be asked to go home. We do not check if they are wearing masks,” said the Defence Minister who advised the public to abide by the Health Ministry guidelines on Covid-19 precautions.

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