• Wearing masks is the first line of defence and necessary to create a safe and healthy community living.
  • Relaxed mandate means greater individual responsibility.

KUALA LUMPUR (Oct 11): When Health Minister Khairy Jamaluddin announced last month the use of face masks indoors would become optional, it was certainly celebrated by most as a positive development of the Covid-19 situation in the country.

However, as Khairy said, the public now has to shoulder a “greater individual responsibility” to protect not just themselves, but the entire community. 

Some condominium managements have decided to continue the requirements in common spaces, such as lifts, to ensure the welfare of its residents.

A resident of a condo in Cheras, who wishes to be known only as Cheong, 40, applauds such a move. In fact, he says a majority of the residents and owners support the decision for “what is best for community living”.

“It is good for families who have young and unvaccinated children, and those at higher risks such as the elderly – all living under a ‘single roof’ in a condo and sharing the lifts to get to our homes,” he says. 

Not everyone is in agreement though, and despite the house rule, Cheong, who has an 18-month old baby, has met maskless neighbours in his lifts. In fact, there is a minority of residents who are unwilling to comply as they are not compelled to, nor would they face any penalty for flouting it. In some instances when they were politely asked to put on a mask, some would respond positively while others would react defensively.

Similarly, another condo management in Bandar Baru Sri Petaling, says, “When our personnel comes across anyone without masks in enclosed common areas, he or she would advise them to wear masks, but that is all we can do. We can’t do more if they refuse, because it is not an enforceable rule.” 

(Read here to find out more about management bodies and their functions.)

Empathy for others

To tackle the non-compliance, country head and managing director of JLL Property Services (Malaysia) Sdn Bhd, YY Lau suggests encouraging “empathy for others”.

“It will be good if we can be empathetic enough to understand others who might be in the high-risk category and those who are living with or taking care of them. We are talking about a community living in a residential building and sharing a common space.

“Wearing a mask does not take much effort and I think there is no other situation that is more troublesome than when one is infected with Covid-19 or is in close contact and has to be quarantined, etc. Hence, a simple act of wearing a mask may save your life and others,” Lau tells EdgeProp.my.

In addition, National House Buyers Association (HBA)’s honorary secretary-general, Datuk Chang Kim Loong notes: “Condo managements must encourage and educate all owners, occupants and visitors to strictly adhere to wearing of masks when sharing the common lifts to prevent further health risk. 

“Think for our children and the neighbours’ children as well as the community as a whole,” he tells EdgeProp.my.

Malaysian Institute of Estate Agents (MIEA) president Chan Ai Cheng says that instead of using the term “mandatory” for mask-wearing in condo lifts, the practice should be encouraged.

“This is the after-effects of the Covid-19 and some time will be required before we can go back to the way things were. I feel the term ‘mandatory’ should be changed to ‘encourage’ as it is best practice to have your masks on in confined areas,” she tells EdgeProp.my.

Similarly, the developer of the new M Vertica KL City Residences in Kuala Lumpur, Mah Sing Bhd, says while it might not be a mandatory requirement at the serviced residence, the developer has continuously encouraged its own employees and residents to wear face masks.

According to the developer, the residents have been “very cautious” and are wearing masks. 

Masks the first line of defence

“Having such a restriction in place is indeed highly recommended, where safe and healthy community living should be the priority,” Chang says.

Lau concurs: “It is a good practice for a condo management to continue making masks mandatory, especially within confined common spaces with high traffic, where physical distancing is either minimal or not possible”.

According to both Chang and Lau, wearing a mask is the “first line of defence” and should be encouraged.

“It is definitely without an iota of doubt that wearing masks does halt the spread of Covid-19 or any other sickness that are prevalent and threatening,” Chang says.

“In strata buildings, it would be prudent for property managements to continue to organise and manage the disinfection of the common areas and facilities with commercial disinfectants in such strata buildings. 

“The managements are encouraged to continuously sanitise all frequently-touched surfaces of the common property especially lifts (passenger and service), gym equipment and common toilets,” Chang adds.

In fact, Chang believes that China’s efforts to “totally eradicate” Covid-19 should be encouraged,” and Covid-19 should be dealt with “zero tolerance”.

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