Face mask shields against Covid-19

KUALA LUMPUR (July 25): Believe it or not, the face mask, which is normally worn on hazy days when the country is covered in smog, is now categorised as the most important “shield” to fight against the invisible enemy, Covid-19, apart from social distancing.

Wearing the face mask is said to be an important preventive measure as it can reduce filtration by 60 per cent of airborne virus particles, including of Covid-19.

As such, effective Aug 1, the government is making compulsory the wearing of face mask in public or congested areas and public transport, whereby a fine of RM1,000 could be imposed on those caught not wearing the “shield” under the Prevention and Control of Infectious Diseases Act 1988 (Act 342).

The reason being that although Malaysia is recognised as one of the countries that have succeeded in addressing the pandemic, the people are becoming complacent in complying with the standard operating procedures (SOP) set by the government to curb the spread of Covid-19.

The new regulation had prompted reactions from various quarters, health experts, the general public,  who agreed with the move which they described as appropriate to ensure discipline and compliance to the SOP, thus reducing the risk of infection.

Realizing that the government's decision was for the common good, a private sector employee, Zaiton Mohamad, 35, said she feels more confident to be in public when everybody wears the face mask.

Director of the Tropical Infectious Disease Research and Education Center (TIDREC), Universiti Malaya (UM), Prof Dr Sazaly Abu Bakar said the use of face masks in public and congested places should have been made mandatory a long time ago.

“With the face mask on, we are indirectly preventing our hands from touching parts of the body that can cause the virus to infect us," he said.

Meanwhile, the Malaysian Pharmaceutical Association advises the public to be careful when buying fabric or the three-ply face masks online.

“The society have to now why the face mask should be worn, instead of simply wearing it, without knowing its protective effects.

“If you buy online, who will be responsible if anything happens. How would you know the source or manufacturer. What we want is, first, the quality, second, it is safe to use, and thirdly, it works," said its chairman, Amrahi Buang.

Despite the positive response from various parties to the new rule, there are also complaints, especially on the price of face masks, which is said to be quite expensive due to traders indiscriminately increasing the price and sale of counterfeit face masks.

The Ministry of Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs (KPDHEP), through checks at 43,402 premises nationwide since Jan 29 until yesterday, had issued a total of RM392,400 compound for various offences , including selling of face masks above the maximum price.

Its Enforcement director Datuk Iskandar Halim Sulaiman said the ministry also detected many cases involving sale of fake face masks with traders purchasing generic face masks from China and re-packaging them.

However, KPDNHEP has taken a smart move by reducing the ceiling price of face mask to RM1.20 per unit from RM1.50, and the wholesale price, which is currently RM1.45 per unit, to M1.15 each, effective  Aug 15, as announced by its minister Datuk Seri Alexander Nanta Linggi yesterday.

The government will also continue to study the need to lower the price of face mask and ensure there is always adequate supply, he added.

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