‘Any mask is still better than none’

  • Nation
  • Tuesday, 12 May 2020

Dr Petrick stress on the importance of wider use of face masks.

PETALING JAYA: Health experts are calling for wider use of face masks to help curb the spread of Covid-19.Prof Moy Foong Ming of Universiti Malaya’s Department of Social and Preventive Medicine said the rationale of putting on a face mask was to protect others around the wearer.

“We are not sure as to who is infected, as some may be asymptomatic or in a pre-symptomatic phase. We need these people to wear a mask in order to prevent droplet transmission from them.

“Those with flu-like symptoms may not be going out or moving around, but before they develop the symptoms, they are infectious and may be unknowingly infecting others around them. If everyone wears a mask, then all of us will be protected, ” she said.

Prof Moy said although there was no law making it compulsory to wear face masks, the people should do so on their own.

“This is especially when they are in places with poor ventilation, where social distancing is not possible. In air-conditioned areas, the air is only circulating within the same room, or when one is using public transport or at a healthcare facility, ” she said.

Prof Moy said she disagreed with any move to make it compulsory for people to wear a face mask.

“I also do not agree to criminalising or imposing fines on individuals who do not wear a mask when they leave their houses. We need to consider that there are people who have difficulty making a living during this period, and won’t be able to pay RM1.50 each day for it, ” she said, adding that reusable masks, whether home-made or purchased, could be a viable solution.

Prof Moy said it would be great if the government could provide reusable masks for all like it was being done in Singapore and Hong Kong.She said as more workplaces reopened, the wearing of face masks by workers should be highly encouraged.

HUKM infectious diseases unit head Dr Petrick Periyasamy said there was a need to educate the public about the risk of asymptomatic transmissions of Covid-19, which he added could range from 10% to 60%.

“Once they know this, they can decide for themselves on the risks. I think we should wear a mask when we are in close contact with people, ” he said.

“A reusable mask is certainly an option for those who can’t afford a disposable mask. Ultimately, any mask is still better than no mask if you are unable to maintain social distancing, ” said Dr Petrick, who is a consultant in internal medicine and infectious diseases.In a statement yesterday, the Malaysian Thoracic Society said it was imperative that any advice given by the government to the people was guided “by the best scientific evidence”.

“We wish to state that wearing a mask in public is key to helping control infection, ” said its president Assoc Prof Dr Pang Yong Kek. Last week, Senior Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob said business outlets like supermarkets could not deny entry to people without face masks, adding that businesses could not make their own rules on the matter.

He explained that not wearing a mask was not an offence under the Prevention and Control of Infectious Diseases Act 1988.

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