PETALING JAYA: Amid heightened concerns of another Covid-19 outbreak in Malaysia, one state in Malaysia has decided to make masking up mandatory if Covid-19 cases there soar.
Health experts, too, are saying that masking up is effective in preventing the spread of Covid-19, and they also advised the public to go for their booster shots.
Taking the first step, the Melaka government said wearing face masks would be made mandatory by Jan 17 in the state if Covid-19 cases record an upward trend.
State health and anti-drug committee chairman Dr Muhamad Akmal Saleh said the preemptive measure of making face masks a must in public areas is in line with the increasing number of global Covid-19 cases.
A check with the Health Ministry’s KKMnow portal showed there were 1,916 active Covid-19 in the state as of Monday.
“We are monitoring the situation and we will not hesitate to make face masks compulsory in public and other premises if the need arises, based on our two-week evaluation of the number of cases reported,” Dr Muhamad Akmal said yesterday.
He also urged locals as well as tourists to start wearing face masks with immediate effect.
“We also urge locals to take their booster doses as a precautionary measure, especially the high-risk groups,” he added.
Universiti Malaya public health expert Prof Dr Moy Foong Ming said masking up could be made compulsory on a national scale again if there is an upward trend in Covid-19 cases.
“The trend (of Covid-19 cases) should be monitored closely over a period of two weeks from when China reopens its borders on Jan 8.
“If cases are not drastically increasing, however, reinstating mask wearing may not be needed,” she said, adding that masking up is still highly encouraged in crowded and poorly ventilated areas.“There should also be efforts to promote masking up while allowing premises to have the discretion of requesting shoppers or patrons to mask up.
“At the same time, the uptake of booster doses can be improved especially among the elderly and high-risk groups,” she said, adding that the TRIIS (Test, Report, Isolate, Inform and Seek) method should also be practised.
Prof Moy, who was the principal researcher of a long Covid study conducted by Universiti Malaya’s Department of Social and Preventive Medicine, also advised the public to receive their boosters as soon as possible as a protective measure against any incoming surges.
“A vaccine’s effectiveness wanes over time. Those aged 60 and above as well as high-risk groups should also take a second booster shot if their last (booster) was more than six months ago,” she said.
On any impending movement control order, Dr Moy said it is inevitable if the mortality rate increases due to the virus.
“Another MCO may however not be necessary if impending Covid-19 surges only see an increasing number of cases, and not hospitalisation or mortality rates.
“Imposing another MCO is also detrimental to the country’s economy, as well as the livelihood and mental health status of the people,” she said.
Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia public health expert Prof Dr Sharifa Ezat Wan Puteh also strongly encouraged the public to mask up both indoors and outdoors at least for the coming month.
“It does not have to be mandatory but rather prioritised, in tandem with practising personal hygiene measures such as washing hands and sanitising.
“If the Covid-19 situation, however, reaches the point similar to the outbreak in early 2020 and during the Delta wave, then masking must be reinstated, along with possibly another vaccination rollout as a safety measure,” she said, adding that she however does not foresee another severe outbreak.
Prof Sharifa Ezat said mask wearing is also one of the ways to protect against Covid-19, and it is also cost-friendly.
“Covid-19 is transmitted through droplets and wearing a mask helps prevent transmission. It also protects against influenza and other related viruses,” she said.
Employers too should provide their staff with the option of working remotely as a precaution, she added.