PETALING JAYA (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - The Malaysian government is considering whether to go with a fine or jail time for those refusing to "mask up" once the use of face masks is made mandatory in public places, said Health director-general Datuk Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah.
He said the growing number of infections was worrying, as the number of new Covid-19 cases hit double digits for the third straight day on Tuesday (July 21).
There were 15 cases on Tuesday with 11 of them being local transmissions.
If the wearing of a face mask is made mandatory in public places under the Prevention and Control of Infectious Diseases Act, Dr Noor Hisham said that those flouting the law could either be fined RM1,000 (S$324) or put in jail.
"The Health Ministry is encouraging the use of face masks, especially in public places, high-risk places or places where social distancing of one metre apart is hard to enforce.
"We have currently not made it mandatory because once we make it mandatory under the Act, we would have to consider the punishment.
"We are still looking at the punishment - whether to fine or give jail time for those not wearing face masks - once its use is made compulsory, " he said during a briefing on Tuesday.
He reiterated the ministry's recommendation on the use of face masks, which could reduce the risk of infection by 65 per cent as well as social distancing, which could reduce transmission by up to 70 per cent.
Dr Noor Hisham said Malaysia recorded seven recoveries on Tuesday.
As for the 15 new infections, he said four were from imported cases involving three Malaysians and one foreigner.
Nine of the 11 local cases were from Sarawak.
Out of those, one was a foreigner who tested positive during new arrival screening at the Semuja Immigration depot in Sarawak. "Five of the cases are from a new cluster - the Sentosa Hospital cluster. There are currently six cases in this cluster; the first was detected on July 19, " he said.
Those affected in this cluster were five medical workers and another one from a cleaning company.
All six of them are being treated at the Sarawak General Hospital.
There were no new deaths on Tuesday. The number of fatalities remained at 123.