Those from high-risk groups still advised to mask up

GEORGE TOWN: Health experts are still advising people to continue to mask up, especially those with comorbidities and from high-risk groups.

Penang Hospital infectious diseases unit head Datuk Dr Chow Ting Soo said masking up could help prevent the spread of any respiratory illness.

“When a person is unwell, it is best to stay away and get tested. Get help from clinics if there are signs of breathlessness.

“They should also mask up to prevent spread of the virus, especially on public transport.

“But for aircraft, where most air handling units do not recycle air, it is safe and acceptable if one does not use a mask as the risk of transmission of respiratory illnesses is low,” she said.

Dr Chow added that with sufficient ventilation, chances of transmission of the virus to a healthy person is now considered low.

“Almost all the people have received double doses of the vaccine and more than half the population got their third dose. Besides that, a large number of people who were infected developed certain immunity against Covid-19.

“The current circulating strain being Omicron is largely mild in symptoms. Oral antivirals are now available to assist and prevent severe infection for the high-risk population once they’re infected.

“Hence, indoors or in areas where the air circulation is good, there is no need to mask up if one is well,” she said.

Meanwhile, sales of face masks, once decked up to the ceiling at stores and every corner along the streets here, have plummeted.

A store owner in Ayer Itam, Lee Choon Mei, 60, said she used to stock up an entire shelf of masks for adults and children, but these days, only those for children seem to be still in demand.

“I still get customers buying two to three boxes of face masks for their children, as they need to wear them to school.

“But the demand for adult face masks has dropped significantly,” she said.

A box of 50 masks for children now retails at RM8, while those for adults retails at RM6 at Lee’s store.

During the early stages of the movement control order in March 2020, demand for masks skyrocketed, with a pack of 50 pieces costing about RM100.

Pharmacist Goh Yew Lee, 46, said the drop in demand had resulted in her reducing the price of her masks.

“At the start of the pandemic in 2020, the entire shelf was filled with face masks.

“I could sell between 200 and 300 boxes daily, sometimes we would even run out of stock.

“Today, fewer than 10 boxes are sold each day.

“Other items such as sanitisers are only being bought by those who want to observe extra hygiene, especially for their children,” she said, adding that some customers are also switching to using three-ply masks instead of the four-ply ones with the easing of the pandemic.

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