Have 'mask up' rule to prevent spread of diseases

AFTER the severe acute respiratory syndrome (Sars) epidemic and bird flu, there is now the Middle East respiratory syndrome (Mers).

Diseases like Mers can spread easily across regions because of the ease and frequency of air travel.

Two of the most common modes of disease transmission appear to be coughing and sneezing.

Yet in many cases, even when an infected person shows symptoms, such as coughing or sneezing, proper measures, such as the wearing of masks, are not mandated until in-depth tests are conducted to confirm the disease.

In the meantime, the carrier may already have spread the disease to other people.

It is time all airlines and cruise operators implemented a "mask up" policy for any traveller who coughs or sneezes. Masks must be provided by the operators in such instances, and laws must be instituted to ensure compliance, with penalties in place.

A person with a cough may be found to have just a common cold, nevertheless, such a policy will greatly reduce the spread of any disease, including the deadly ones.

Given the low costs of masks and the ease of implementation, there is no better time than now to enforce such a rule.

This policy could also be extended to other enclosed places, such as offices, libraries and restaurants.

Lim Kay Soon