Text by Corina Tan
Malaysia’s Health Minister Khairy Jamaluddin has announced that the use of face masks in indoor and enclosed spaces is now optional.
During a press conference on September 7, 2022, Khairy said that the ministry had looked into the Covid-19 situation within the country and based its decision on the decline of cases that required hospitalisation and the low number of patients needing care in the ICU. As of September 6th, non-critical suspected or probable cases reported were at 21 per cent, whereas suspected or probable ICU cases were at 19 per cent respectively. The use of ventilators had also declined to 11 per cent.
— RTM Malaysia (@RTM_Malaysia) September 7, 2022
While the use of masks in indoor settings is no longer mandatory, business premises can decide if they wish to continue imposing the need for masks in their respective establishments. Khairy said that if these businesses decide that there is a need for masks to still be worn inside their place of business, then patrons will need to follow the ruling, as businesses can refuse entry to the public for failing to comply and choose to turn them away. Khairy said that the government will leave that decision to the premise owners as it is legally within their right to do so.
The Health Ministry also identified a few situations where masks would still be required. These were listed as buses, trains, airplanes, worker vans, school vans, taxis, and e-hailing services. Masks are also still mandatory in health facilities such as hospitals, clinics, nursing homes and haemodialysis centres.
The ministry strongly encourages the public to continue to wear face masks in general, as it has shown to significantly reduce infection. Khairy also encouraged people to wear masks in crowded places such as stadiums, night markets, supermarkets, shopping malls and religious venues when gathering for prayer.
He mentioned that people who are Covid positive or have symptoms such as fever, cough and colds, are still required to wear a mask. High risk individuals such as the elderly, patients with chronic illness, pregnant women and people who are immune compromised should still continue to mask up too. He also said that it is also recommended that those participating in activities with these high-risk individuals to also wear a mask to protect them as that is the considerate thing to do. Khairy stressed that the mask mandate could return if the Covid-19 situation worsens.
Owing to the fact that virus mutations continue to happen rapidly, and their effects remain unknown, studies on Covid-19 variants are still being carried out. Meanwhile, vaccinations continue for high-risk groups as the government is looking to procure vaccines targeted to new variants like Omicron.